Thursday, 24 December 2015

Dirty Bones (South Ken): where I got brunch'd in the face

Oh that terrible hangover after all the holiday festivities, I welcome you with a big hello, unkept hair and undereye bags fit for two round-trip tickets to the moon and beyond.

And now I could really do with that hair of the dog potion from a few Sundays ago when Dirty Bones invited a few bloggers down to their South Ken branch for brunch and a masterclass on how to make a very interesting Bloody Mary.

Dirty Bones is essentially an American comfort food diner. Think burgers, hot dogs, chicken and waffles. They've got two branches so far South Kensington and Kingly Court.

The original in South Ken branch transforms at night into a cool retro cocktail bar with a couple of DJs (Thursdays to Saturdays) spinning sould and old school funk. This space also serves as a private dining area where you can hold bespoke events to your fancy.

This is Mary from That Bloody Mary. Think this event was perfect for her. 

Anyway, it was cool to see a bunch of familiar faces and meet familiar names. Wanting to nurse a hangover from the Saturday night before, I went up for the first round of masterclasses to get dibs on a glass of DB's twisted version of a Bloody Mary. 

Michael, the general manager, taught us how to make the restaurant's version of the classic post-hangover drink. 

Finlandia vodka, a mix of pickled brine, lime juice, Louisiana hot sauce, mint and a sour cream Pringles rim maketh this potion. Now I'm not sure about the sour cream rim (then again I'm not a fan of the flavour) but the drink itself is deliciously drinkable with a kick that can seriously knock out that bloody hangover. 

As if the Bloody Mary wasn't enough, we were given prosecco. The unlimited type. 

And then, they fed us. 

First, the Slow n' low, a three-stack toastie of pulled beef rib, charred gherkin, English mustard, taleggio and cheddar on sourdough. This is something I would love to eat to cure any hangover. The beef had a nice smoky flavour to it and I wish they'd put more beef than cheese on this one.

The Green Cheese Toastie is pretty much the Slow n' Low for vegetarians. Avocado replaces the beef and gherkin but the same cheeses are present. I liked this as well but as with the first toastie, I wish there was a bit more filling. And maybe a bit of a chilli kick.

If you've been reading my blog, you know for a fact that I do not eat egg where I can see it despite my love for #yolkporn. The Breakfast Fries came with two fried eggs and a hefty drizzling of tomato sauce on top. Though I did not partake on the eggs, I enjoyed munching on the chips. Crispy and seasoned well, these fries were bloody fantastic.

That wasn't the only thing with egg, though. The Benedict Burger is DB's take on eggs benedict. Now I've seen breakfast pizzas in Bunga Bunga last month, and I know fried eggs and burgers can go well... but hollandaise on a burger???

The 6oz steak burger comes with treacle-cured bacon, a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. I did try the meaty parts with a bit of the sauce. It was rather interesting and I see how it can appeal to Sunday brunchers in town.

But sorry love. *sigh* I'm just not that into you.

My favourite of the mains has got to be the Chicken & Waffles. Good old fried chicken with very crispy batter and juicy chicken inside plus fluffy waffles married in maple syrup. This was a winner for brunch all through out.

After the savoury waffles we went on to the Banana Toblerone-tella Waffles. Topped with caramelised bananas, berries, blueberry jam and a peanut butter gelato, this is heaven for those with massive sweet teeth (which is probably why I loved this one).

There's also a more subtle tasting dessert called Milk & Frosties which consists of milk panacotta and a glass of Frosties. This was quite a clever concept of getting to eat cereal, but I much preferred the waffles for pud.

Prosecco and conversation kept flowing and everybody was getting as merry as Christmas 'round the corner. Dirty Bones (and the lovely PR girls from Sauce Comms) truly gave us a decent brunch and an even better hangover healer. 

And if I'm banking on the current situation of the holiday festivities, we could all use a bit of that Dirty Bloody Mary right now. 

Happy holidays, you guys. Drink responsibly!

20 Kensington Church St, Kensington, London W8
I was invited for a blogger event but ave spend pp would be £25
Square Meal

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Sunday, 20 December 2015

The Sunday Currently: Girl Next Shore vol 8

So the thing is, I've got a new job. 

After eight (!) wonderful years working in one of London's leading legal PR consultancies, I've moved on. It feels surreal being the new kid in town after being part of the thread of the fabric; there's a whole lot of systems to work out, a whole lot of things to remember, a whole new set of personalities to meet and adapt to. But it's challenging and exciting and I can't wait to just hit the ground running with my tasks. 

Language books for dummies. Everyone at the new work place seems to be multilingual. Trying to learn a bit more basic convos except in practice, I always mix it up with Spanglish.

A letter to someone I need to make amends with.

Can someone please stop playing that Fleur East song already? I'm sorry - I know it's a good, commercially viable pop song, but gaaaaah... play that sax already so she can just shush!

Anyway, here's a tune I've been revisiting for the past few weeks. Gotta love Daughter, non?

Destroy the middle, it's a waste of time
From the perfect start to the finish line
And if you're still breathing, you're the lucky ones
'Cause most of us are heaving through corrupted lungs

About Christmas and how much of a grinch I'm feeling. Bah humbug!

Aromatherapy's Inner Strength candle as gifted by the lovely Tamsin. How apt, my friend. Merci beaucoup.

That everyone gets what they want for Christmas.

To do really well in the new job.

An orange top and dark denim skinny jeans.

the thought of 2016 looming close by.

to have conversations with people I haven't spoken to in yonks.

to eat some more.

Very, very, very hangry. Managed to not eat anything substantial yesterday. How could that be?!

On a lot of estate agent websites.

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Friday, 18 December 2015

FishWorks (Mayfair): where we celebrated over seafood and champagne

I love my rare steak and burgers but really and truly, I would go pescatarian if I could. So when I found an OpenTable dining cheque that was about to expire last Monday, I knew I wanted to go to a seafood restaurant.

By the way, can OpenTable please list places where we CAN use our dining cheques instead of where we CAN'T? It would be so much easier that way.

To my delight, you can use rewards cheques at Fishworks on Swallow Street. I've been meaning to try the restaurant for a while now, so I took my buddy B to have a meatless Monday dinner with me. 

If it isn't too obvious, the restaurant is dedicated to serving sea bounty from shellfish to molluscs to fins and tails. 

There's a wet fish counter as you walk in, but thankfully it doesn't smell like you're visiting your local fishmongers. The seafood is fresh, seasonal and mostly sourced in the UK (particularly in Devon and the south coast).

Here's (dinner) looking at you, kid.

The place has a smart elegance to it; its interior design is aesthetically pleasing with a sophisticated but relaxed vibe. There's a bar tucked by a corner while wine racks surround the area and serve as a divider. Blackboards with daily specials cover some walls (although handwriting can be difficult to read!)

B and I are both champagne fiends so we ordered a bottle of R de Ruinart (£79) to share. We were feeling rather celebratory that night... 

...because this little girl has a new job. Teehee.

But I'll tell you more about that later ;)

To start our seafood dinner, I opted for the steamed mussels (£7.25) with white wine, garlic, lemon thyme and shallots. The mussels were delightfully fat and had a great chew on them. The white wine sauce really brought out its delicate taste, subtly briny and almost earthy.

And yes, I was clean eating all the way!

B had the Brixham fish soup (£6.25) which was perfect for the winter weather but reminded me of summer in Cassis. Served with cheesy, buttered croutons and a pot of rouille, I thought it was good but did not have as much depth as I would have wanted.

B ordered the oven-roasted sea bass with fresh lemon thyme, olive oil and Cornish sea salt (£15.95) for mains which can be served filleted or on the bone. B's came filleted despite not being asked (so make sure you tell them how you want it when you order!). It was a fresh, clean plate of fish cooked and seasoned nicely. Something healthy people would appreciate!

I couldn't decide on anything from the a la carte menu (I wanted everything!) but when I looked at the daily specials and saw they had hake steak (£21.75) I knew I had to have it.

The steak of hake was a hefty portion but it was beautifully seasoned and cooked with some of the skin crisped, giving it a lovely texture. The fish flaked off so nicely and was juicy all the way through. The only think I wasn't too keen on was the creamed leeks which I found a bit over-spiced and overpowering.

We were rather full by the time we finished our mains and when our neighbouring table's desserts came we realised they were of gargantuan portions that even our eyes felt too full to stomach them. So we just sipped our bubbles and chatted the night away.

Fishworks on Swallow Street is pretty cool, I think. It's a really nice space and food was fresh and very well prepared. Service was warm and the ambience is very chilled out. It's a place where you can take your parents, your buddies, your dates or your colleagues. I'll definitely be back, perhaps on Meatless Mondays!

B and I weren't too ready to go home yet so we went to Novikov for more cocktails... but that's another story to tell!

Overall, a really good day to celebrate good news.

7-9 Swallow St, London W1B
Ave spend pp: £50

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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Zelman Meats: where carnivorous dreams come true

When Zelman Meats took over Rex & Mariano last month it seemed like all things meaty won over all things fishy. Pescatarians be darned, St Anne's Court is now for the carnivores.

But can this new venture from the Goodman Restaurant Group live up to the standard of Burger & Lobster, Beast, and Goodman success? If it lies on the strength of its logo, which reminds me of a superhero emblem, then perhaps it's on to good things.

The place is transformed into a proper steakhouse, with faux-leather upholstered booths and warm dim lighting. Memories of Rex & Mariano and Goodman restos are apparent on the cutlery and plates. And there are some R&M favourites on the starters selection.

The short and sweet menu is displayed on blackboards everywhere, and if that's not enough your server will probably explain the items one by one (which is what happened when I visited). We skipped the starters and went straight to the meats.

I love me a good picanha because let's be honest, a good booty will almost always get some good loving - and it's cheap as chips (or in this case, chopped salad) at £6 per 100g! I would've preferred it a bit pinker, but as I sliced through my first hundred grams I knew it was one of the best rumps I've ever tapped in town. Soft, smoky and seasoned perfectly this was a great start.

And then I tried the beef short rib with spicy sauce. Goodness gracious guacamole, that rub definitely hit the spot. Albeit not as hot as I thought, it was a delicious balance of smoke, sweet and spice. Definitely something I would love to have on a Summer barbie.

The meat itself was tender and fall-off-the-bone. Although it was ever so slightly dry from the grilling, it still tasted fantastic. Wouldn't be surprised if this becomes a crowd favourite.

My favourite, however, is the chateaubriand. Cooked and seasoned to absolute perfection, my knife sliced through the cut smoothly and it just melted in my mouth. The depth of its meaty, earthy taste is unbelievable and for a price as cheap as £9 per 100g I really couldn't fault it.

Sides weren't as exciting, but perhaps I ordered wrong. For wanting a little bit of greenery, I opted for the chopped salad (£6). Nothing to write home about, folks. Should've gone for the aubergine/courgette.

The triple-cooked chips (£4.50) were the same standard as the mothership (aka Goodman) and though they came with truffle and parmesan variants, the standalone chips were quite a standout, too.

I'd like to think Zelman Meats would stay longer than its former incarnation because like any superhero it saves the day, hits the spot, and offers great value. It was possibly one of the best cheap eats I've had this year and was totally worth the meat sweats. 

2 St Anne's Court, London W1F
Average spend pp: £35
Zelman Meats Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - ZomatoSquare Meal

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Friday, 11 December 2015

Counter (Vauxhall): where the Big Smoke gets a bite of the Big Apple

London and New York have been compared and contrasted so many times but I stand by what I've said in previous years:
They say New York is a city that never sleeps. London does, but then it wakes up and it wakes you up exactly when you need it to. You can easily get lost in all its pride and glory but this is when you realise the many ways you have been 'found'.
I've been told many times "You're definitely much of a New Yorker more than a Londoner!" There may be a slight truth to that but in my heart of hearts I know London is my home and I love this city more than anywhere else.

Admittedly though, as a foodie London can get frustrating. We have a lot of superduper amazing establishments that offer good food, but I've yet to be magically blown away to the land of unicorns. New York probably trumps us in this area which is why I'm not surprised with the little hints of the Big Apple's food/restaurant trends hitting up the Big Smoke.

Enter Counter, an all-day brasserie serving New York style contemporary food and drinks in Vauxhall. 

The place caters to a wide range of customers and the vibe is reflected on the strength of their menu offerings; there's something delicious-sounding from brekkie to dindin to pre-night out snacks. Weekend brunch is a jazzy affair with live piano sessions to entertain you as you eat.

It's tastefully decorated and reflects a really modern vibe that's classy and not too hipster-ical. Kudos to the interior designers for making it cosy and relaxed, considering this place is under the railway arches!

As an all-day brasserie, I was delighted to find there is literally something for whichever time of day.

For brekkie, #eggporn obsessed punters would probs love their baked eggs (£8.5) served with truffled mushrooms, tomato, spinach, walnut pesto. I've had a bit of the shrooms and the spinach which were quite nice, but if I'm being honest this dish seemed like something even novice cooks can make at home.

The fruit juices and smoothies are heaps better, though. So if you're one of those juicing maniacs you could count on their smoothies. I personally liked the classic apple, ginger, carrot concoction.

Counter's banana stuffed french toast is probably their pop kid for brekkie, weekend brunch and Instagramming. Topped with crispy bacon and slathered with maple syrup, the thick slabs of brioche were pretty sexy (despite how unsexy all those calories can make you) and properly filled with banana. 

The chicken Caesar salad (£14) is ideal for post-gym lunch. It's a generous portion and packed with a whole lot of chicken although admittedly, some of the strips were a tad too dry for my liking.

Now, I've seen the Counter Burger (£12.5) tons of times from my favourite 'grammers and food bloggers so I was really excited to have this for lunch. Served with fries at a decent price (teehee) I smacked my lips for a big bargain of a burger.

...except I was highly disappointed when it came dry and overcooked. The brioche bun was a tad too dry, too. I've also tried the Parisienne burger which fared better in terms of flavour but I'm not too sure burgers are their strongest suit.

For dinner, there's nothing like a nice hearty soup to warm you up this season. Counter's mushroom velouté (£8.5) is creamy and comforting. The touch of truffle is spot on and just the right amount to not overpower the earthy flavour of mushroom.

The scallops (£9.5) starter come in threes, paired with butternut squash purée and a teeny portion of sunchoke chips. Delicately seasoned, I like how the squash complements the sweetness of the molluscs.

Slightly less exciting is the baked cod (£16) with a dab of chilli and served with lemon toasted grains mâche. The fish fillet is of decent portion and cooked nicely but I have to say it lacked a bit of seasoning for my taste. Nothing a bit of salt and pepper can't fix!

Now if you're ballsy enough to venture out to Vauxhall for a night out and in dire need of bar munch, Counter's bacon mac n' cheese balls (£6) is a surefire treat.

Crispy, crunchy, cheesy and charmed with chipotle (har har), I could snack on these all day. The saltiness is balanced and the naughtiness of it welcomes your drinking capabilities.

And if you're up for a tipple or two, they have a steady list of signature drinks as well as classics. They also have a separate bar called Backcounter Lounge inspired by chill out spots in New York's Hell's Kitchen.

They do make a good French Martini!

Overall, there really is something for everyone around the clock at Counter. I like the concept of the place - It's a bite of the Big Apple in the Big Smoke, but have they bitten off more than they can chew? Sure there were a couple of hits and misses but the menu is quite exciting. Perhaps with a little love on execution this place can definitely be a South London standout.

Vauxhall Station, South Lambeth Place, Vauxhall, London SW8 1SP
Ave spend pp: £30
COUNTER Vauxhall Arches Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - ZomatoSquare Meal

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