Eating

One of my favourite past times. Going out for meals. Cooking for myself. Watching Netflix in bed with snacks. You know the deal. Here’s my London restaurant reviews, please note – no salads on here.

BLEECKER ST. BURGERS

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If you see the black and white logo above, anywhere, I suggest you and who ever your with literally flock towards it. Because what this logo symbolises, is that the best burger in London is within your grasp.

Bleecker St. Burgers sets up shop in Spitalfields but can usually be found around street food markets in the city. I’ve tried them twice now, the first time was at popular London festival – Field Day, and secondly at a pop up street food event called Kerb in Kings Cross. Both experiences equally as memorable.

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At a first glance, this probably isn’t the prettiest burger you’ll ever see. No brioche bun, tomatoes, lettuce etc. But that’s because they don’t need it. The cheese burger (£6) is compiled of your standard bun sprinkled with sesame seeds, beef patty and cheese with no nonsense added. This place is all about the beef, it is hands down the most tender, succulent, melt in your mouth patty you will ever experience. Try it as they recommend, medium rare. Go for the double patty for £9 if you’re feeling up to it. They also serve a Bacon Cheeseburger (£7), the Blue Burger (£6.5) and the Bleecker Black (£10). And a Veggie burger for for £6, but, that’s irrelevant.

Let me go into a little more detail of the experiences I’ve had with Bleecker. So on Field Day, drunk and ravenous, I spotted the famous black and white logo – instantly recognising it and remembering the recommendations I’d seen scattered across the net. In pursuit of what I’d heard to be the best burger in London, I headed over to the swarm of people that surrounded the food truck. I waited a good half an hour all in all and God damn, it was worth it. I scoffed that burger down faster than I thought humanly possible, crazy happy. My good friend, Alex, asked for a bite. Hesitant I passed it over – after all I did want to share this momentous moment with someone. As the film Into The Wild tells us ‘happiness is only real when shared’.

Now this dude took the biggest mouthful of that burger he could and I hated him. I actually loathed him. Just for a split second. We’re totally good now – all has been forgiven. But see below the moment captured perfectly of me raining down on him for his faux pas – look how rattled he looks. And look how I’m cradling that burger – that’s how much food means to me.

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The second time around I knew better. I ordered a double cheeseburger when I came across the truck again at Kerb. Pushing all my friends to order one too. They did and what followed was one of those blissful moments that occur when everyone’s eating something that tastes so good – people just don’t talk to each other. Another one of my friends tried Alex’s burger as the truck had run out of burgers – yes, that’s how popular it is – and literally dropped to his knees in awe of this burger.

I don’t have a picture for that moment.

But you do have my word.

Go try the damn thing.

PATTY & BUN, LIVERPOOL ST

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Here’s a restaurant that has been praised  by the masses. The restaurant that started out as a pop up and now has Liverpool Street, James Street and now London Fields to call home. Patty & Bun is one of the most talked about burger restaurants in London, renowned for its no frills style dining, with only room for up to 30 diners at a time, takeway service and a concise and creative menu which gets straight to the point. Although, when something has been held at such high par, it has so much further to fall.

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My friend and I targeted the Liverpool Street branch for ease of after work antics. We were warned about the limited seating but weren’t expecting such a small venue. I jumped onto the first table I saw and last one available, only to be politely ushered back into the queue as that’s not quite how it works here. You queue up, state whether you want to eat in or out, order a drink and then once a table is available for you then you can order your meal. The layout of the restaurant is definitely feeding off the fast food vibe but with a much more tasteful interior, high set wooden seating opposite the counter and characteristic brick interior classes up the vibe without deviating from the point that this is not a place you dine for the night, maybe half an hour then move on.

The menu at a first glance is exciting, but the longer you look at it the smaller it seems to get. Not necessarily in a bad way. Everything sounds delicious, and you can truly appreciate the fun and thought that has gone into each option. The ‘Ari Gold’ burger had me at hello, not only for the love of the Entourage character from which the name emerged but it also just sounded ‘perf’ (Beef patty, Cheese, Lettuce, Tomato, Pickled onions, Ketchup, Smokey P&B mayo, Brioche) at £7.50 and add bacon for 50p. Other burgers included the likes of the ‘Lambshank Redemption’ (Lamb Patty with Coriander and Chilli, Lettuce, Buttermilk Baby Corguettes, Pickled Aubergine, Cumin Aioli, Feta, Brioche) at £8 which my friend chose or the ‘Hot Chic’ Chicken burger (Marinated buttermilk fried chicken, Spicy slaw, Pickled cucumbers, Lettuce, Garlic sauce, Brioche) at £8.50 which I was hesitant to order in fear of comparing it to street food champions ‘Breddos’ buttermilk chicken which is to die for. Sides included the ‘Thunder Thighs’ which came with either Smoked Jalepeno Butter Sauce  or Tamarind glaze. And some fancy chips with Roast Chicken Mayo & Chicken Skin Salt.

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The food arrived 15 minutes later, served up on a red, diner tray and the burger wrapped up in a cute fast food style package. The ‘Thunder Thighs’ I ordered with the smoked jalepeno butter sauce, we ordered were slightly more intimidating than I imagine. The portion of three come served in a small small bowl, swimming in thick, bright red sauce – which if I’m honest I imagined to be any other colour than red. Forget them, back to what matters. Once unwrapped, this burgers aesthetics made my heart jump, ironically. A burger has never looked so perfectly put together, all the ingredients piled high and peeping out from that brioche bun as they should.

Although this did actually cause some problems when it came to eating. I genuinely could not fit the damn thing in my mouth. On top of that, with every attempted bite a ridiculous amount of grease squeezed out from the other side and onto, thank god, my tray. So due to this, I had to lean so far forward to ensure it did actually fall onto my tray and not my lap that I almost fell out of my god damn seat.

Taste wise, it wasn’t until my last few bites that the quality of the beef patty was actually brought out. To my disappointment, all those fantastic ingredients that I’d been so excited about where drowned in tomato ketchup, which is great in small portions but this just ruined a burger that when cut down to basics was fantastic. The melt-melt-in-your-mouth patty and crunchy bacon were a hit, but as a whole, this burger was a disappointment. I wish I could have turned to the chicken thighs with more enthusiasm but the sauce held too many similarities to Buffalo Sauce, which I had a bad run in with a few weeks before at Bad Egg. Maybe this is just personal opinion but I strongly believe that sauce should either be served on the side or bottled for you to apply how much you want.

Overall, the experience was fun – the menu was creative and the food incredibly instagram worthy. I know a lot of people out there will disagree with me, but taste wise, it just didn’t hit the spot. So I’m going to say it’s definitely worth a try, but if you’ve eaten at Bleecker Street Burgers, don’t get too excited.

BEN’S CANTEEN, BATTERSEA

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Along with the big burger restaurants we have all heard of in London, I love a local beauty just as much. I found out about this little gem on twitter, where I spend most of my days following restaurants promoting some monstrous burger or gluttonous menu. Ben’s Canteen have a great interactive feed and post some fantastic pictures of their eats and are based in Battersea and Earlsfield, with both a popular brunch, dinner and cocktail menu.

Just a ten minute walk from Clapham Junction station, giving you easy access to all parts of London – the journey back to Stoke Newington was a stretch, but hey I made it! The restaurant itself is really cute, white washed with outdoor seating and the fantastic patio doors which are opened up in the summer. This is something that gets me so excited every time I see it, it’s so childish but doesn’t it just feel like you’re on holiday somewhere beautiful in Europe? My friend and I arrived to find the restaurant in the cool state of busy that you’d expect on a Wednesday evening. The crowd was generally early to mid twenties with a very relaxed vibe. So relaxed in fact we couldn’t actually see any staff about when we first stepped in the door (pet peeve) but after a good wait I clocked the vacant table by the window with my reservation name on a chalk board. We took a seat and started to scan the cocktail menu.

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The cocktail menu is so, so great – it’s not your average joe menu featuring the ‘classic’s such as the Mojito and Pina Colada but really eclectic mixes of sparkling wine and gin. My friend and I ordered the Coconut Cove, a blend of Koko Kanu Coconut Rum, coconut water. sparkling wine, Fiorente elderflower liqueur, lemon balm and pineapple and lime juice. The description left me imagining it to be quite a heavy and sweet drink, but it was so light and refreshing – like a more exotic and classy glass of Pimms. One of the best cocktails I’ve had in London since I moved here last year.

At a first glance the menu felt a little all over the place, there was no real theme and the potential of a chef’s need to be a Jack-of-all trades screaming at me. With starter options ranging from ‘Ben’s Epic Scotch Egg’ to ‘DIY Guacamole and Tortilla Chips’ and mains varying from ’38 Day Aged Shorthorn Steak with Cafe de Paris Butter’ to a ‘Spring Shoot Super Food Salad’. Although the whole thing was a little much to take in at first – it worked. We ended up choosing the ‘Spiced Duck Nuggets’ to start and ‘The BC Burger’ with sweet potato fries for mains.

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I have to admit I didn’t quite know what to expect from the meal, as usually with smaller, localised places to eat it can be quite hit and miss. But I actually felt like I’d hit the jackpot with this one. The Duck Nuggets were lightly breaded and served with thick soy sauce dusted with sesame seeds – six to one serving, so perfect for sharing. Cured for 6 days, the duck was full of flavour and so tender, none of that chewy business you get at the Chinese takeaway next to your local corner shop. One thing to note, they come piping hot – so watch out! The burger arrived shortly after we’d finished our appetiser and my God was it a huge portion. The burger itself was stacked high and the sweet potato fries well, there must have been the equivalent of two potatoes on my plate. I don’t even think ‘fries’ is the right terminology for these babies, they are full on, thick cut chips. Not that I was complaining. They were hands down, the best sweet potato chips I have ever had. Chunky, soft, lightly salted and crispy on the outside – they could not have been more perfect. The burger was also fantastic, the beef patty perfectly cooked and topped with Salt Beef, Homemade Burger Sauce & Smoked Cheese, plus the necessity of the beef tomato and salad garnish. Although, I have to say I really struggled to keep all the ingredients in the bun when I was eating – it was pretty embarrassing. I’m 23, I should know my way around a burger by now.

All in all, a great meal. I didn’t want to stop eating the sweet potato fries or the duck nuggets, they are an absolute must if you visit. The burger was enjoyable but not a main dish I’d be addicted to and keep going back for, such as Red Dog Saloon’s cheeseburgers, in all their greasy goodness. But if you’re in the area, I’d 100% recommend you head down, the food is creative and fun – they even have a DIY donut dessert where you inject the filling of your choice with a plastic syringe. They also have daily specials and happy hour cocktail offers which they promote on twitter, so follow them for updates on their menu. The cocktails are great and the staff are friendly so it makes for a perfect summer evening out.

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STREET FEAST, DALSTON YARD

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If you hadn’t noticed, there is an epidemic of street food sweeping through London. We all know about Camden’s food stalls which are open late into the night with staff competing to get the attention and sale of every passer-by. But I’m talking about food festivals and the gourmet food trucks which are popping up regularly now.

The evolution of food trucks and street food has progressed massively. No longer do we expect the average frankfurter wedged in a Warburton’s bun topped with over fried onions. We expect delicious, gourmet food for under a tenner, maybe even a fiver and we’ll take nothing less. Whilst street food had been delivering quick lunches since the early 1900s, the boom we are seeing started around 10 years ago. If we’re specific, Los Angeles based Korean style street food, Kogi, sparked it all. The reason behind this surge is due to weakness in the economy and unemployment being on the rise. Many people who own food trucks are those who lost their jobs and started up on their own. Amongst them are people in their mid-twenties wanting to get into the food industry and doing so with a flair of creativity. And who thought the recession could spark something so wonderful.

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We’ve seen successful food trucks progress to international restaurants as well. Shake Shackstarted as a food truck on Madison Square Park in New York and earlier this year raised £105m from their IPO. Street food and food trucks in London are now so popular there are places where you can try the best of the best every weekend throughout summer. Street Feast is definitely one you need to try out.

Last Saturday, a bunch of friends and I visited Street Feast’s Dalston Yard location for a birthday. I was beyond excited all week for the food on offer, just check out their website and your mouth will be watering. The stalls available are interchangeable as they shuffle them around all locations ‘Model Market’ (Lewisham), ‘Dalston Yard’ and  ‘Dinerama’  (Shoreditch Yard – opening 12th June). But you can expect the likes of Bleecker St, B.O.B.s Lobster, Yum Bun, Le Bun, Slider Bar, Grill My Cheese, Rola Wola and more. They also have a craft beer stall, gin bar and Caribbean style cocktails at Rum Shack. It’s everything you could dream of in one place.

Now, my brother’s girlfriend had shown me a picture of one of the meals she had last time she went – 3 sliders including deep fried chicken sandwiched between two waffles. Instantly that was top of my list of things to try. Definitely two ingredients I wouldn’t put on one plate – let alone in the same bite. Next up, an asian style soft, steamed bun in the place of standard bread any day. So Le Bun and Yum Bun it was.

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Naturally I went for the Le Bun’s 3 sliders for £10, being the greedy bitch I am. To my pleasure, the chicken and waffle dish was still available and better than I imagined; so I ordered two, and how can you blame me when it’s titled ‘Truffle & Waffles’ and compiled of confit southern fried chicken, house waffles, truffle butter and Rosemary maple syrup. My third option was the ‘Le Duck Frites Bun’ which packed in pulled confit duck, straw frites, béarnaise spread, duck sauce and champagne slaw into a brioche bun. The flavours in the former were fantastic and totally complementary of the other. Although at times the chicken did feel quite dry, maybe due to the ratio of meat compared to the waffle bun, which obviously gets thinner and thinner as you’re taking each bite and squashing the slider. But I’d still go back for more. I have much less to say about the Duck Confit Slider, I felt there was too much béarnaise sauce one such a small burger which I felt also got cold far too quickly. Both were incredibly messy – make sure you grab a napkin.

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Yum Bun was a total winner. Since a friend of mine had shown me a picture of this burger in a steamed bun he ate in Berlin, I’ve been dying to try one! Yum Bun had three savoury menu choices and two desserts – one bun for £4 and two for £7. The three savoury choices included the ‘Pork Bun’ (slow-roasted pork belly, cucumbers, spring onions and hoisin sauce), ‘Mushroom Bun’ (Portobello mushroom, toasted walnuts and a miso glaze) and a ‘Shrimp Bun’ (crispy chilli prawns, pickles, coriander and gochujang mayo). The dessert options were either coffee ice cream, toasted coconut ice cream inside a crispy golden bun.  I chose the Pork Bun and Toasted Coconut Ice Cream desert – don’t judge me. I can eat. Both were DIVINE. The steamed bun is something I could eat on its own, all day every day and teamed with the pork and hoi sin sauce it was twice as satisfying as the hoi sin duck pancakes I get along with my Chinese take out – which is twice as expensive. The dessert bun was insane, the toasted coconut ice cream was drizzled with a caramel sauce and sprinkled with peanuts – combining all the textures of sticky, crunchy and smooth in one go. If there is anything you try this year, please try Yum Bun. For £7 there is no excuses.

The drinks from Rum Shack are worth a go if you’re not into craft beer – or equally if you are. They’re strong and extremely tasty. Although, I would look out for the rip off that is the £15 Pina Colada Pitcher which comes in an appealing hollowed out pineapple– you are paying for the pineapple people!

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Altogether, I think I spent around £30 between 7pm and 9pm, so if you’re looking to spend a longer evening there, it is going to cost you. When you’ve eaten all you can and move on to drinks that’s when it adds up. Regardless of how much you want to spend, I suggest you make your way down to Street Feast, if not for the food then for the beer and if not for the beer, for the atmosphere. It has a fantastic, lively vibe– incredibly cool decor, sporting that run down chic that east London is loving right now which also included numerous bonfires spread about the venue to keep you toasty in this British weather. You can probably expect to be eating and drinking on your feet though – despite there being seating there is not enough for everyone so don’t be disappointed. It’s free to get in before 7pm, afterwards it’s £3 and it’s open from 5pm to midnight every Friday and Saturday until 26th September.

And for all of those attending Field Day Festival this weekend, Street Feast is providing the food – you can find me at the Blecker Street truck and expect to see a review sometime next week!

MEAT MISSION, HOXTON

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The firm I work for has this incessant habit of disclosing a fun fact about each of their new employees to the whole company around a week before they start. Mine was the fact I have this food blog – which is a great conversation starter but I also feel a new bout of pressure for each post I write knowing it may be falling under managements eyes. On my first day I was discussing this obsession I have for unhealthy food when a team member mentioned a restaurant near by, where I ‘absolutely must try’ the Dead Hippie Burger at a place called ‘Meat Mission’. Others overheard and one lady backed him up and said she knew the owners before they got big and the restaurant was nothing more than a roaming food truck.

International food chain Meat Liquor is a American style restaurant serving burgers, chicken wings and cocktails. London locations including the West End and also smaller spin off, Meat Mission, in Hoxton. This little food joint has skyrocketed to popularity due to its informal vibe and meat centric menu. It seems that in this day and age the larger and greasier the burger and the more run down the restaurant looks, the more popular it is.

I arrived at prime time and avoided the dreaded queues mentioned in Time Out’s review. My friend and I stood by the door whilst several floor staff rushed past without even a glance in our direction. I know just how busy and stressful it can get as a waitress having worked at Las Iguanas for 6 months in 2013, but one rule our manager drummed into us was ‘watch the door!’ – you have no idea how mad people can get in those seconds that tick by when they’re waiting at the door. Eventually a waitress stops and simply just stares at us…after what feels like a lifetime of discomfort I blurt out ‘table for two?!’. We follow her to a distressed wooden table with chairs along one side and a low bench along the other. The restaurant was fairly busy with a variation in the crowd, from family parties to couples.

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Throughout dining, the service significantly improved and we were not left too long or too briefly to make our decisions. We ordered our drinks and received in good time although, I don’t think I will ever get used to drinking wine from a tumbler glass in public. My university days of drinking alcohol from anything but the appropriate glass are well and truly behind me.

The menu, to me, felt quite sparse. I expected much more choice from such a big chain and remember feeling quite reserved on all varieties of burger. The description of each of the 9 burgers on offer – only 5 of them with a beef patty, sounded exactly the same. Ranging from a classic Cheeseburger to the famous Dead Hippie Burger, each one held the ingredients –  cheese, pickles, lettuce, mustard and onions. Which yes, does compile a delicious sounding burger but leaves little to the imagination for someone feeling adventurous. I went with my team mate’s recommendation – the 2x mustard fried beef patties, dead hippie sauce, pickles, minced white onions, lettuce and cheese – which makes up the Dead Hippie Burger. And threw in a batch of fries, for good sport.

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Moments later, my friend and I’s order arrived. Now, I’m all for a funky replacement for a plate, but I enjoy having my own of whatever that replacement might be. In true American fashion, our order arrived on a red plastic tray, covered only in a white sheet of grease proof paper and some serviettes  – my issue, is that our orders arrived on the same tray. I looked up expectantly at our vanishing waitress at a sign more plates would be coming. But no. One tray for the both of us. Like animals.

The meal itself was good but nothing memorable. It always hurts when the fries are more tasty than the burger. The Dead Hippie did not impress, it looked more like a slider than a full size meal – and I felt my heart drop a little at the absence of a brioche bun. FYI the only way to do burgers in 2015. Honestly, I have no more to say on the meal other than it left me hungry and a little disheartened after all the hype. Although, my friend did say that they were a bad batch – so I feel inclined to try it once more. But in no way will I be rushing back.

AVENUE, PICCADILLY

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Avenue introduced me to something special, something I’d never even dreamed acceptable in society. But as someone who is new to London and urban life, it appears I’m one step behind, once again. Brunch, with unlimited Bellini’s, Bloody Mary’s or Prosecco, is apparently a common thing in places like New York and a growing trend in the UK capital of London. People getting sauced between the hours of 11am and 3pm, classing it as acceptable just because it’s Prosecco and it’s being drank with a meal. There are plenty of places which have made the Evening Standard’s top list for these so called ‘boozy brunches’, such as Bourne & Hollingsworth, Cookbook Cafe and Flesh & Buns. Although, my friend presented a trusty buzzfeed article which had a little more choice, including that of Avenue, a New York inspired bar and restaurant based in-between Piccadilly and Green Park.

This brunch actually took place on Easter’s bank holiday weekend, so I was suffering from the worst hangover of the year so far, bar January 1st. What is it about bank holiday weekends that just make you feel like Christmas has come early? I well and truly acted like I was ballin’ for those four days and have been struggling for the rest of the month. But despite the night before’s little portion of crazy, I managed to make it to the restaurant looking fairly presentable and on time.

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The place is beautiful, 100% one of the fanciest places I’ve been to since I moved here. All the staff were in suits and super polite and there was an incredible buzz coming from the back in the dining area. The decor was insane. The bar was insanely classy and chic, featuring some high bar chairs and some vintage looking seating opposite; I would have never say it out loud but my pay cheque is not made for places like this. Although, once I reach Carrie Bradshaw sassy, I will make it my spot.

My friend and I had reserved a table for 3pm and upon my arrival I was told the kitchen would be open for another 15 minutes. Straight away I knew this was a problem, my friend is never on time – and not like fashionably late. Usually between 40mins to an hour onwards. So I set myself up on one of the stools at the bar, ordered myself some ice water trying to hide my hangover and waited. And the longer I waited the more pitiful looks I was getting from the staff surrounding me, the bar man actually slid over a bowl of mixed nuts for me, to quote on quote ‘cheer me up’, like they do in those movies when someone has been stood up.

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45 minutes of staring into space, wishing the ground would swallow me up – my friend arrived and because I’d had such a long time to bond with the manager, they’d kept the kitchen open for us. The menu boasted a range of breakfast(y) dishes from Granola, Yoghurt and Berries to BBQ pork ribs and Southern Fried Baby Chicken, with the option of dessert too. We quickly ordered a round of pancakes, bacon and maple syrup and waffles with bacon and mixed berries. And of course 2 glasses of unlimited prosecco. Now I had some doubts about just how unlimited this would actually be, but I really needn’t have worried. They just kept that shit coming. Every time our cup reached the half empty mark they ran over with that bottle like there was no tomorrow.

My friend and I were the last ones left in the restaurant, the staff had started preparing the restaurant for dinner and we hadn’t even noticed the lights dim we were so sauced. So the brunch did the trick. For the amount I paid for the waffle, I have to say it was pretty worth it. Made fresh to order and the berries worked wonders for my hangover. All together my meal came to £35. A little shock – £20 for a waffle is a little much, but for a treat with an old friend what’s money right? I’m so good at making excuses for spending inappropriate amounts of money on food. The staff had been so great and patient with us, that I wouldn’t even have minded paying service – which they discounted for some reason. Probably another little something to ‘cheer me up’.

For the rich folk out there who could afford to do this every weekend, please do it. For me.

THE PAPERWORKS, ELEPHANT & CASTLE

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Last week was one of my closest girlfriends birthday, as one of my more cool and edgy friends there was a lot of pressure put on her to choose a fitting venue for the occasion. She’s fun to pressurise. I find that the older I get the more amusing I find it to wind people up, perhaps this is just a psychological response to growing older and wishing I wasn’t. I’ve known Sophie for a good five years now, she was literally the first person I saw around my halls of residence in Oxford 2010 and I remember thinking, she’s dressed so well – I hope we become friends. Later that evening we bumped into each other in the student bar, Morals, and she hasn’t been able to get rid of me since.

So she chose Elephant & Castle – which, by day, I have to say is one of my least favourite places in London but by night, it actually pulled it out the bag. Following my overdue welcome drinks at work, I made my way to the pop up venue ‘The Paperworks‘ on my own – only a 5/10 minute walk from the station.

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Inside was I guess what you’d expect from a fancy beer garden, it reminded me a lot of The Big Society, Oxford, but with more lawn chairs, fairy lights and general charm. It wasn’t too hectic either, whenever I visit somewhere in London I just anticipate the large crowds and pushing and shoving but there was none of that here. Everyone was in their little groups huddled around the makeshift fires scattered around and generally being cheerful human beings. Pretty much the way everyone acts when it’s summer. It was like previewing a snippet of summer.

There were food, cocktail and beer stalls at decent prices. From what I remember, there was only one food stall, serving hot dogs – but advertised them with authentic German titles. I ordered a cheese dog, starving, to find them handed me back a numbered ticket and telling me it’ll be around 15 minutes. In my inebriated state I couldn’t quite comprehend how a hot dog would take 15 minutes to cook, I mean how long does it take to boil a frankfurter?! But what I got was much better than expected. When I picked up my order, I was ready to scream when I saw no cheese in that thing – only to get told it was inside the sausage. This was a revelation for me, I had never heard of this before. Alcohol tastebuds aside, this thing was great. Pop up beer gardens, are the one.

BAD EGG, MOORGATE

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With a new firm comes new territory, I’d gotten to know the backstreets of Fitzrovia and all it has to offer within the year I’d worked in the area. I’m no longer on West End grounds and find myself close to the quirky streets of East London and smack bang in the city’s centre. At first glance I was worried there wouldn’t be many inspiring eateries amongst the modern concrete and glass clad offices but thankfully a few of my new colleagues have paved the foodie way for me. Luckily, I stumbled across this little gem within my first week.

Bad Egg is the new venture from Neil Rankin – who has previously worked his wonders in both Smokehouse, Islington and Pitt Cue Co, where he has based a menu around the protein packed breakfast favourite, eggs – playing on different flavours from around the globe. The menu boasts dishes ranging from goat’s cheese tacos to Korean sweet and spicy ribs – with feature craft beers on offer and a buzzy diner atmosphere, these lunch sized portions are perfect for your midday escape from the office.

Now there are some things you just don’t order when you’re out with new company such as spaghetti bolognese, noodles or ribs. I like to defy these unwritten rules and enjoy putting my etiquette into good old fashioned practice. Starving and craving something meaty avoiding all salad based dishes on the menu, I went for the Peking Ribs (Umami Rich Soy, Hoisin and Ginger Sauce) and some fries on the side – totalled at £11.50. Pretty good price for Central London.

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Our food came within 10 minutes and to my surprise my dish wasn’t at all messy as I’d pictured, it was one hefty, pork belly rib with a crispy outer layer and smothered in sauce, it looked delicious! The fries were plain and nothing really to shout about but necessary to pair with something as rich flavoured as the ribs I ordered. Another plus to the meal – the rib was so large I could use my knife and fork, usually I wouldn’t really care but it was my 3rd day at work – no way can I walk into the office after lunch with an ambiguous stain on my white shirt now can I? The Peking Ribs were so, so great for the first few mouthfuls, cured and slow cooked to perfection, the meat just fell off the bone. But as I got further through my meal I found it got more difficult to enjoy, maybe I needed more sides to mask the generous helping of hoisin sauce which became more sickly with each bite. Along with the amount of fat that was oozing onto my fork, it just wasn’t for me.

I wouldn’t say it made me write off the restaurant all together, the food looks impressive and the recipes are creative but with the result of my meal and the lack of competent service – generally when hiring a floor staff you choose someone who can remember which customer said what and be able to handle it when there are more than 3 tables with hungry customers. It’s not somewhere I would make dinner reservations on a Saturday night to be the centre point of a planned evening but a good option on the lunchtime list all the same.

BENIHANA, CHELSEA

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So, last weekend held the day that some singles dread, either throwing some form of Galentines party or crying into their pillows with a box of tissues, Netflix, wine and array of chocolate surrounding them, like a moat of misery. And couples, well…I guess they could be dreading it too, pouring effort into a day which has no real romantic credibility to their relationship but has been drilled into our heads from a young age that this is a day to show just how much you love your partner. The stress of this day actually causes a rise in anxiety and puts pressure on relationships, research has actually shown that the highest number of break ups happen on Red Tuesday, the Tuesday before Valentines Day. Just a fun fact for you. As someone who has been single for the entirety of my life until a year ago, please rest assured this blog post isn’t to boast about my relationship but to honestly tell you how amazing the food was. I am not one of those people who posts selfies of myself and my partner giggling into each others faces like teenagers in a 90’s chick flick. But at the same time, props to my boy for choosing an awesome place to eat, he’s a good one.

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This restaurant probably adds a little more flash than my usual posts, it’s a little more fancy and definitely a lot more pricey – but totally worth it. The venue is gorgeous, the entrance is ambiguous, placed on the corner of a building with a small corridor leading down some stairs, where at the bottom you are greeted by the concierge who will take your coat for you and take you to your seat. Leading you through their huge open plan area where the bar is located with modern sofas and seating, following a gold and grey colour palette – then through to the dining area where you’re seated onto a half moon shaped table. The seating plan is very different to anything I’ve seen, the tables look as if they were oval shape and split in half then separated to fit in a Teppanyaki (Flat Iron Plate) and two chefs. Each table holds 8 people and you are directly facing another, 8 which has a slightly eery feel to it before the chefs join the table. Staring at a bunch of other couples in anticipation of your food is odd when they’re total strangers. Another element was that the music was oddly upbeat for such a dim room which had such an ardent atmosphere but this would all come together once the chefs started.

We took our seats between two crazy, young couples. One couple so young they didn’t have any alcohol within arms reach and definitely spoke of their school peers the entire meal. Voices were kept low and the atmosphere was intimate – perfect for valentines day. We had one server to our table who catered for our drinks and explained the Valentines Taster Menu to us, we’d be having all 5 of the starters (joy) and had the choice of either mains from Menu A (Teriyaki Chicken, Black Cod with Miso Sauce & Sirloin Steak with Mushrooms) or Menu B (King Prawn with Sesame Sauce, Filet Mignon with Mushrooms or Cod and Grilled Lobster Tail) and to finish an Ice Cream Sponge Cake. I clearly chose Menu B, seafood is my favourite thing to eat out and it feels kinda fancy – I also wanted to try Filet Mignon as to this day I haven’t tried a steak I like. Plus it’s one of those things I’ve only heard of in rap music – the title itself just makes me sing that Lil’ Wayne song in my head. I’m going off topic. My partner chose Menu A, for gains.

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So, the thing with Benihana is that everyone on your table starts their meal at the same time, as of course you all eat your starters together which are prepared by the kitchen in time for the chef to come out and prepare your mains. We started with Benihana’s own Onion Soup which was light and aromatic, a perfect appetiser, and then on to a crisp salad with homemade ginger dressing which really cleansed the palette. Next was a cute heart-shaped soy sushi with avocado, best sticky rice ever. Then the chef came in to prepare the Prawn, Courgette and Onion Volcano which turned out to be this impressive show of slicing the onions and piling them to the shape of a volcano, cranking the Teppanyaki to max and adding God knows what to create a blast of fire which pretty much threw me off my seat. But very impressive all the same. The lobster and prawns were delicious and very filling when paired with the egg fried rice the chef had prepared for us earlier, I was stuffed by the time my steak arrived. Now, the filet mignon was lovely but I’ve decided that steak just isn’t for me but from my boyfriends reaction it was excellent and blew his sirloin steak out of the water.

The next hour was filled with lots of impressive knife juggling, flipping bowls with a variety of cutlery, catching eggs in hats, super speedy chopping and shaping food into various valentines shapes – we couldn’t keep our eyes off him. Our chef was so fun and interacted with every one of us, it was such a fun dining experience – not only was the food good but you also realise that you’re not just paying for the food but also a show and a damn good one at that.

SHAKE SHACK, COVENT GARDEN

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You will have seen this little number all over the press recently in recognition of its booming sales and impressive IPO which has outperformed the rest of the industry. This modern burger joint started out as a humble food stand in Madison Square Park, New York around 11 years ago and has now expanded to 63 locations around the world, due to popular demand. It’s first day of trading alone valued the company at around $1.6 billion.

So, I thought I’d better get myself in gear and see what the fuss is about.

This burger experience is similar to that of your regular fast food restaurant, you stand in line with your menu which is handed to you at the door and order at the counter. It’s pretty hectic as you can see that behind the counter of the friendly cashiers the kitchen is mayhem. Which doesn’t surprise me as each burger is compiled to perfection, dissimilar to the likes of McDonalds who would probably forget the ‘beef’ patties if they tried hard enough. I ordered a single ShackBurger (Cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce), regular fries (other option, cheesy fries) and a Caramel Shake. In true sugar addict fashion I couldn’t not get a Shake, particularly as this wasn’t a regular milkshake, it’s made with frozen custard – and custard is one of my favourite things.

ShakeShack is located in Covent Garden’s covered market on the first floor, which is ideal for them as they’re hitting a tourist hotspot but not so ideal for the customers – well in winter anyway. The layout kind of killed the excitement for me as all the indoor seats were taken so we were left to face the freezing temperatures either inside or outside the covered market. First we tried the outside seating as the electric heaters held some appeal only to find they did as much good as fingerless gloves – sounds like a good idea, do not do their job. So we went for the ones inside the covered market, which blocked the breeze a little.

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Back to the food. It was so, so great. The burger itself, perfection, it just melts in your mouth – the patty cooked medium and paired with the softest brioche bun. One thing that really impressed me, is as I mentioned earlier, every burger does look perfect and exactly how they advertise. The crinkly chips were light and crispy – fairly addictive. Then there was the Shake. I want one everyday of my life for the rest of my life but my inner nutritionist tells me no. Frozen custard is the way forward and much less sickly than your regular milkshake packed out with ice cream and chocolate bars and God knows what else.

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So yes, I strongly recommend visiting Shake Shack. It is worth the hype. Although, it’s unlikely to replace your other fast food chain favourites as you are paying around double the price for essentially ‘a burger in a bag’ as my friend cynically put. The average meal of a burger, fries and shake is around £13 and the menu does have a good variety, with the option to double up on patties in each one. They also serve wine and beer, which is a change for a takeout setup. I’ve heard good things about their ‘Shroom Burger (Crisp-fried portobello mushroom filled with melted muenster and cheddar cheeses, topped with lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce) and I will slowly be working my way through all of their Shakes on offer.

BRGR.CO, SOHO

brgrcoI had high hopes for BRGR.co as it features on Time Out London’s Top Burgers and it did not disappoint. With dim lighting, buzzing atmosphere and alternative music playing, this makes a good date location, whether you’re on your 1st or 50th. The staff were so welcoming, even the chef and this didn’t waver throughout our meal. At first look I felt the menu was a little sparse, the burgers really just varied in size and meat used and not really in toppings which I am used to expecting after visiting places like Red Dog Saloon and BOBO Social. But what I did notice was great prices, a 6oz burger was £7.25, known as the ‘Tender Blend’ and toppings and sauces at the additional price of .99p. After spying on another tables order and saw those fries, all doubt left my mind. Ranging from cheese to chilli fries and our choice – parmesan truffle fries. They were something else.BRGR.CO Soho - Butchers Cut Burger (8 Oz) comes with salad on the side.So in the end I went for the ‘Tender Blend’ Burger with vintage cheddar and BRGR sauce. And I tell you they got this burger thing down to a science.  Putting the salad and sauces on the side leaving you to build your burger one step at a time everything just enhances the dining experience and it honestly just makes you appreciate each flavour more. The brioche bun was the best that I have had so far, perfect bun to patty ratio – there was no bite shy of beef. And the burger sauce was incredible. I would eat here everyday if I could and if my metabolism hadn’t slowed down to a ridiculous pace – long gone are the days when I can eat whatever I want with no consequence. The Parmesan Truffle Fries were thin and crispy and the flavours really complemented each other although maybe just a tad too much cheese for me to finish the portion. All in all, excellent dining experience. All burgers served on a tin tray with red and white checkered paper really gives you the feel of informality to your meal which I am such a fan of at the moment. Our waitress was so great and friendly but at the same time not too invasive. The food was to die for and definitely sits rightly as one of Time Out’s top burger restaurants in London.

BOBO SOCIAL, FITZROVIA

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Once a week at my work place we have a ‘treat yourself’ day. A few of us have strict diets, with allergies to gluten and lactose included but some foods are just worth the pain they bring afterwards, right?

So in search of burgers and more sweet potato fries we headed down to BOBO Social. The place is gorgeous, the interior is all warm beiges and nudes with fairy lights scattered around, chandeliers and a beautiful engraved silver bar. And really just looks like the insides of someones house, someone who lives in Kensington. As there were 9 of us we’d booked a table in advance and they led us downstairs and to this little cove, so we were totally enclosed surrounded by said fairy lights and to be honest kind of squished as the table could only really seat 6. It would have been great for them to have set up the table before we arrived so we didn’t have to pass chairs down to the end of the table with them.

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Anyway, forget the service. The menu. Most of my colleagues went for the BOBO burger option as it simply came with salad and sauce and you had the option to add toppings, such as bacon, guacamole, shitake mushrooms and so on. Another went for the lobster and crab burger, which I was so tempted to get but the peanut butter burger was just calling me. I’m a sucker for mixing both savoury and sweet (I love the restaurant Duck and Waffle, whose menu is dedicated to that) and this burger consisted of a patty, bacon and crunchy peanut butter. I swear to God it was one of the best things I’ve eaten in my life. I didn’t want it to end. The peanut butter and bacon complemented each other so well and added moisture to the patty which I can sometimes feel is too dry. So I highly recommend.

Although, the burgers took 45 minutes to come out, probably spending a hefty number of minutes burning that ‘B’ into the bun, and the service had already told us we have the table for an hour and 15 minutes. So we felt fairly rushed, particularly when they ended up kicking us out early. Giving us those 15 minutes you promised would probably have saved you your 12.5% service charge.

All in all, the food was great, everyone was happy and the table had that satisfied silence you hear when people are enjoying their meal. Sweet potato fries could have been a little crispier, they were not so impressive in comparison to Bubbledogs’. The peanut butter burger was everything I’d dreamed of and more, thank you for not using sunpat and giving a healthy dollop of the stuff – it exceeded expectations. But the atmosphere of the restaurant was really quite stuck up and I don’t appreciate getting kicked off a table I had pre booked and they were aware of. I think I’d only return if I could get take out.

BUBBLEDOGS, FITZROVIA

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I foresee this place being my next obsession. Does anyone else have that incessant habit where you find something you like, do that thing over and over and over again until you hate it? I do it with songs, food, clothes. EVERYTHING.

But I doubt I will ever hate Bubbledogs. I’d heard a couple of people mentioning it around my office and the name stood out right away, I’m a sucker for a quirky name. To my delight Bubbledogs happen to fall under the category of the unique dining experience of gourmet fast food, this time incorporating hot dogs and champagne. It’s like they just fabricated themselves from my dreams.

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Hot Dogs. Champagne.

Now if I’m honest when I go out to eat and order a Hot Dog its usually in a knock-off American Diner where everything is supersize and to be frank, when the dish arrives I’m a little overwhelmed without even taking a bite. This is not what Bubbledogs is like. Whether you like your Hot Dog plain in the bun with or without ketchup or mustard or you like it covered in macaroni cheese, bacon bits and crispy onions – there will be something for you. You can take a look at the menu here. My choice was the Sloppy Joe (topped with pork chilli and mature cheese) and a side of sweet potato fries. I was prepared to be intimidated by the portion, checking for napkin stations and perched strategically on the high rise seats to avoid any future incidents of missing my piehole.

But this was the perfect portion. The Sloppy Joe was just big enough, with just the right amount of chilli that it could satisfy the good old tastebuds as well as actually staying in the bun – which I would genuinely call a science. Filled with delicate flavours and cooked to perfection I couldn’t fault them. And don’t even get me started on the sweet potato fries.

If you’re looking for somewhere fresh and funky to go for dinner but aren’t quite ready to throw away that classy vibe, this is the restaurant for you. Although, our waiter seemed to be unable to comprehend we didn’t want any champagne with our meal and had actually visited the restaurant for their food the whole experience was great. I plan to return on Thursday next week to dabble in their champagne list, I’m no connoisseur, but no better time to learn seeing as I’m going to be spending all my time there now, right?

BURGER & LOBSTER, BANK

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A place with only 3 things on the menu makes an effortlessly cool eating experience. I find that half the hassle when going out to eat at popular places is that everything on the menu just sounds so delicious it’s impossible to choose. So Burger & Lobster was instantly refreshing.

For those who haven’t yet visited this funky restaurant with a buzzing environment, here is a run through of what’s up for grabs. No appetisers. 3 mains. All £20. Main 1: A whole lobster served with chips, salad and garlic butter – which can be either grilled or steamed. Main 2: Lobster Brioche Roll – also served with salad and chips – shredded lobster with a Japanese Mayo if I recall rightly. Main 3: 10 Oz Beef Burger with bacon and cheese – also served with chips & salad. You get the idea.

Now for me, anyone who goes here to get a burger is just simply wrong. If you wanted to go out to eat a burger – go to Byron, Gourmet Burger or one of my personal favourites, Red Dog Saloon. That’s their specialty, so go splash out on a burger there. Not doubting that Burger & Lobster serve up a good burger but you know it just doesn’t feel right. I assume they just threw that option on the menu for those of you with THAT friend in your circle who doesn’t eat seafood – or has strong feelings about Lobsters being boiled alive.

The restaurant itself has a great ambience and suprisingly laid back for a place who’s main dish is lobster, which usually presents a more sophisticated atmosphere. It’s interior heavily influenced from American culture with some booths and lots of deep reds and browns. Attracting a mixed crowd but I’d say a majority of customers age ranges mid to late twenties. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this place as a first date seeing as the volume gets pretty high which could be fairly awkward whilst trying to develop an opinion on this stranger sitting opposite you. Also Lobster is the most ungraceful thing to eat – challenging spaghetti.

The food is delicious, I chose the Steamed Lobster – as I’m absolute seafood lover who couldn’t even risk the smoky aftertaste of the grilled option. Portion size was fantastic and the staff are really helpful in informing you of the easiest ways to get to the good stuff. Whilst the pincers are already cracked for your ease you can request pliers. The chips are skinny and light so extremely moreish – and the salad (mixed leaf with red onion and light portion of parmesan cheese) really complements the lobster.

Whilst our waiter was extremely friendly and helpful, it felt difficult at times to get their attention  and service when needed, it’s disappointing when the hospitality diminishes once you’ve ordered and been served your food. But in terms of time, it’s a speedy a process, we’d sat down, got our drinks and food within 15 minutes – which only adds to the restaurant’s very present ‘in-n-out’ vibe, as all tables are yours for the set time of 2 hours. Which is reasonable as they only take a small number of bookings – so there is usually a queue out the door.

Burger & Lobster a fast and fun dining experience which does not disappoint. I suggest you head down  with your (sea)foodie friends – restaurants based in Mayfair, Soho, Farringdon, City, Fitzrovia and Knightsbridge.  www.burgerandlobster.com

RED IRON BURGER, UXBRIDGE

RED IRON BURGER, Uxbridge

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As I mentioned in my post about Burger & Lobster, to get a good burger, go to a specialist burger restaurant. Whilst I was out to meet a few close friends from Uni, in a town far, far away (Uxbridge – Zone 6), I did not expect to find this little treasure.

I love restaurants which present an alternative dining experience and Red Iron Burger really delivers with it’s hybrid, fast food set up. Stepping in the front door was like stepping into your regular chippy down the road – but this isn’t a menu to take away. The dining area is towards the back, not a huge space but big enough to fulfil a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Table ready with mustard, tomato ketchup (Heinz of course) and a box of napkins. The menu is clear and presents a range of options – covering beef, chicken, veggie and lamb burgers…& salads. But I’d question your diet if you’re turning up to this kind of restaurant for a salad – don’t kid yourself.

They also do those awesome milkshakes which cost about a fiver but taste like paradise – I recommend the Oreo flavour. If you turn to the back of the menu, they also do the Man VS Food challenges, which I tried to force my friends into unsuccessfully. Choices are – The End of the World Burger (30oz Beef Patty, 4 cheeses, bacon, chips & onion rings), The 40oz Steak (Served with Chips) or The Super Spicy Hot Wings with choice of flavours. One of the main reasons my friends wouldn’t try the challenge as the benefits were not good enough – simply getting your picture on the wall of fame and ‘Bragging Rights’ does not suffice. Maybe making it a free meal might give it more appeal guys.

The burger in my picture was my partner’s. He’s such a pig. Having the Red Iron Burger Classic was not enough, he asked for a lamb patty on top of that. To his dismay the Lamb was a disappointment, too tough and salty. Whilst the beef patty was cooked to perfection – real melt in your mouth experience  – how burgers should be!

Here there is no cutlery, no plates, no alcohol. Just your hands, a red tray and an overpriced soft drink of your choice. But I’ve gotta say, the portions are massive, none of us could finish our meal, but we left satisfied. I’d have no hesitation in going back here, but only when I’m feeling really, really hungry – and maybe when I feel I’ve had a good healthy week and can balance my self out with a meal which is probably leading me down a dark route to cardiac arrest.

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