Posts Tagged ‘Pub’

Resto 35 Victoria Stakes, Crouch End

October 23, 2018


Membership of the Crouch End Players entails a gruelling amount of pre- and post-show entertainment that only the strongest constitutions are apt to survive. But it does have the upside of getting to try out the ever-changing restaurant scene in N8. The Victoria Stakes, however, is a stalwart at the foot of Muswell Hill yet curiously I’d never eaten there before.

The room is gastropubby without choring on about it (we dined in the downstairs bar, I think (though I’m not certain) that it’s more formal upstairs). They had a new menu and the staff were eager to know how we liked it. I liked it a lot – solid bistrot style dishes with plenty of options for veggies and vegans.

I was a hungered man and went for the onglet steak. This came cooked, sliced and seasoned to perfection (and I mean perfection, i.e. high end restaurant quality) with lashings of crunchy chips and a satisfyingly hefty lump of watercress on the side. House red didn’t spoil the effect and the only downside was that the bream across the way had plenty of fish but not enough accompaniments.

Service was cheerful and efficient, making the VS a good option if you’re seeing any future CEP productions at the Moravian Hall.


#Food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 72 The Fish Inn

December 10, 2017

After a stroll around the glorious Buttermere we worked up an appetite such as us city dwellers rarely possess. The Fish Inn has a very homely look that tempted us in for good pub food.

If there’s a better place to be on a dry December day than Buttermere I’ve yet to find it.

They have local beer, I can recommend the Loweswater (?) Gold, and a selection of classics on the lunch menu (12-2, useful to know). I went for chill con carne. A generous bowl of chilli with lashings of rice on the side. To my delight the chilli had some serious heat to it but also a deep meaty flavour that was very satisfying. There was an old skool salad on the side and I demolished the lot.

The room is unpretentious with local artworks and photographs. In December it was busy enough with fellow walkers and a smattering of locals, I suspect it may be more like Pic Circus in the summer. But with a friendly barman and good service I’m sure they can cope with that.


#Food #LakeDistrict

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 12 The Lion and Lobster, Brighton

February 15, 2017

In Brighton for a cousin’s birthday we were needing to lay in some bait before taking on Crazy Mouse.* She’d booked the Lion and Lobster and we trooped upstairs as a pack of Levetts to a room all to ourselves. A wise precaution given the occasionally combustible nature of such events in the past.

The building is a wonderful Regency warren of rooms – getting to the bogs (and back) being a challenge on a Thesean level. The room was perfect – panelled walls, pictures of Essex and a doorway to the decking for the fag addicts.

It was a Sunday so roast was the offer. I went for the bovine variety, two good slabs of topside with excellently cooked veg (and plenty of it), roasties, Yorkshire and gravy. It was sumptuous and made me very happy. To go with that a reasonably priced South African Shiraz. And dessert? Oof, well, I guess I’m only going to spend the next two hours on rides on the pier, what a splendid idea! It was a decent crême brûlée but a bit of a let down after the main event.

Happily, no tempers having been lost, we staggered off down the front for our rendez-vous with death.


Crazy Mouse. Fearsomely oxidised.

*I have no doubt as to the lunacy of said mouse, but the adjective that most came to mind while riding the rodent was rusty.

9/10 (I was tending to an 8 but my son insisted on 9)

#Food #Brighton #CrazyMouse

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

Review #94 The Old Dairy, Stroud Green

November 7, 2016


I must have been to The Old Dairy a hundred times or more for a drink but I don’t recall ever having eaten there. Fresh from a refurb and with options in Stroud Green thinning out (Gustavo’s, I notice, has bitten the dust) we took a table in the Dairy of a Saturday night.

Well, that makes it sound easier than the process of getting a table actually turned out to be. Could we have a table for 5? The guy said he’d check. I could see at least five empty tables immediately in front of me and I was pretty sure there were more next door but hey, it was a Saturday right so maybe they had a lot of bookings. Our man had disappeared and was next seen taking a payment from a customer having, goldfish-like, completely forgotten what he was supposed to be doing.

Another server strolled past – were we waiting for something? Table for 5 please … oh, I’ll just have a look. Hmm, been told that before but on this occasion we did get a table, a nice big one. Everybody gruntled again.

The menu is pretty extensive and has a lot of tempting things on it. I opted for chicken livers to start and then venison for a main. Would we like drinks? You betcha – wine for the adults and a beer for the teenager. ‘How old is he?’ ‘Seventeen, is that a problem?’ ‘I’ll check with the manager.’ Well, the manager said no but we protested that if he was eating he should be allowed to have a drink. A concession was made. Everybody happy again. The wine, a white Rioja, was very good and our waitress charm itself in the face of disintegrating gruntlement.

Four starters arrived but where were the chicken livers? Somewhere else, obviously. Somewhere else for long enough that I asked the others to start without me while I looked for the livers. Eventually they arrived and were okay but seemed to have come from very large chickens. The livers I liked but the sauce had too much raw heat and some pointless cold cherry tomatoes in it. Squid on the other hand looked good.

More drinks? Sure, same again please. Ah but no, you see the boy could have one pint but not another. ‘Are you sure?! I mean that seems a little inconsistent.’ ‘I’ll check with the manager.’ Nope, it’s a one drink policy. We took it philosophically. Mains taking a fair while to arrive it was clear that the kitchen was having a slow night. Or that hungry bar customers were taking precedent over those in the restaurant. But when it arrived the venison was decent, if a little undercarbed with potatoes of the straw variety making a meagre contribution. But I snaffled some (good) chips from the chicken muncher across the way. Crunchy cabbage was a good thing. Did we want dessert? Hmm, I don’t think so.

The waitress could see that we weren’t entirely happy about the way things had gone and did a good job of emollience but it really should have occurred to the manager that a personal visit to the table might have been wise. I don’t like it when managers leave their staff to face the music, it’s happened too often at work to me in the past. It might just have been an off night for the resto but for over forty quid a head I expect a bit better. Oh, and I forgot to mention the health and safety testing floor chip.

To end on a brighter note the highlight of the evening were the plates! Hand turned pieces of lovely crockery that showed off the food very well, I coveted them.


To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

Review #82, The Shoeburyness Hotel

September 25, 2016

Standing on the beach

With a sub in my hand

Staring at the sea 

Staring at the sand*

Staring down my sandwich 

At a seagull on the ground

I can see his open mouth

And he’s making a right bloody racket, he’s a fackin’ seagull.

I’m alive

I’m dead

I’m the stranger

Feeding a seagull

I visited my mother today. Or was it yesterday? In Shoeburyness. A place that seems at the end of the earth looking one way but the gateway to civilisation (of a sort, I mean a lot of it is Kent) the other. This being the season of the Estuary Festival it was time to make the decision of whether to go down the route of Radio 3 Nightwaves type analysis of the psychogeography of Essex and spend a morning of reverie gazing at the majestic dereliction of the Mansell Forts. Or go back to my roots as a Sarfend native and think to myself ‘Bollocks to that, let’s get some fish & chips.’

I chose the latter.

The Shoeburyness Hotel has had a miraculous refurb since the last time I was in it. It involves a lot of stripped wood, white linen on the tables and fit-for-human-habituation toilets. So not all bad.

Five of us were looking for lunch and we sat down in a room that seemed a touch formal for lunch in an infrequently visited part of the coast. Until you tuned into the X-Factor megamix coming through the speakers. We soon forgot about the formalities and got stuck into some decent fish and chips. The portion size was perfect for if you’ve been tramping up and down the front for a while with good battered fish, even better chips but rotten peas. 70s peas in fact and thus enjoyable for their nostalgia enhancing properties.

Service was cheerful and swift – the room was soon half full, which seems pretty good for a Friday lunchtime. For five it cost £75, miraculous value to someone who lunches in London but probably normal around these parts. I’ll be back for a pint before the year is out and for dinner in 2017.


*Well, mud really. This was Shoebury, not Oran.

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap


On Pop Music

April 15, 2015 at Somerset House

This last week or so has been an unusually poppy week (being more a classical hound by nature (of which more anon … that’s for another post)) but I wasn’t thinking to write about it until I stumbled across the Secret 7″ exhibition space at Somerset House.

By chance it was the first day of its opening to the public (yep, most of my most hipsterish moves are usually by accident rather than by design and I was wandering around Aldwych in a post-pub (The Lyceum on the Strand, recommended if you’re skint in the West End, you can get a booth and you don’t mind Sam Smith ales) funk trying to kill time before going to a mate’s party. The party is relevant.). So yes, a little caffeine freshener at Fernandez & Wells in the courtyard of Somerset ‘Arse (stumpy, it has to be a stumpy) and then a wander to see what they had on for free, my visits to the Courtauld being less frequent now that I’m no longer a UoL student and have to stump up cash like a regular Joe.

And there, at the river end of the building, I found a crowd of hipsters admiring rack upon rack of hand-made single covers. The record cover as a fetish object with people having selfies, taking portraits, coveting and discussing them. Secret 7″ ask celebs, artists, designers and other random groovy f*ckers to decorate the sleeves then display them anonymously. The public are then invited to pay half a ton for a unique, potentially very valuable, item on the day of the end of the exhibition. The  proceeds of this and other charitable acts (a roll-a-penny chute that tishes a cymbal,  limited editions of the records by named designers) goes to Nordoff Robbins, a charity that uses music as part of its therapy for people with problems of a variety too numerous to go into here.

A view of the bridge from Secret 7"

A view of the bridge from Secret 7″

All very worthy but why bring it up here? ‘What is point?’ as the feller on Down the Line would ask. The aforementioned friend just gave a paper at a conference about the nostalgia for Britpop (he’ll be giving another on this phenomenon at the seminar series I co-convene at the end of June). I also saw Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young the previous weekend. And the night before I went to the exhibition (and my friend’s party) I’d been to see Courtney Barnett at the Electric Ballroom in Camden.

So this is my theme. Nostalgia in pop music. In Baumbach’s film the young hipster is a man obsessed with the eighties, or the bits of it that he likes (the Miners’ Strike, Kajagoogoo, Ipswich Town’s decline from a footballing powerhouse to a provincial bit-player and Thundercats don’t get a mention), who has a pristine record collection (i.e vinyl, see above) alongside his domestic chicken pod. In short, he’s a major irritant for using nostalgia as a generator of supposed originality.

Which I guess was one of the points that Baumbach was trying to make. That we seem to be living in a desperately unoriginal and conservative culture, in spite of the constant hum of creativity being the supposed fuel of post-industrialised Western economies. And that this conservatism appears to be affecting the very people who shouldn’t be giving a shit about what their parent’s generation did, i.e. people like me (sorry Mum, I know the 70s had good bits but I never chose to be born in them).

And I began to see this everywhere. At Secret 7″ – which is a fantastic cause, don’t get me wrong, and has some wonderful things for sale that would grace any hipster’s wall. But what music do they have on the singles? The Rolling Stones, The Supremes, Peter Gabriel, Underworld, oh and The Maccabees and St Vincent for the ‘kids’. You can almost sense the ad agency carefully weighing the revenue/gender/ethnicity issues in a finely calibrated balance. But not age because age always wins out in the world of pop music nowadays. The labels have to exploit those old acts. Dinosaurs are big in music.

And Courtney Barnett? She’s a great performer, I love her lyrics, I wish her well. But her sound? It’s a bit underwhelming; it reminds you of other things. And when I go to a thing I might want to be reminded of other things but not other things that are better than what I’m at. And the last few gigs I’ve been to (The Orwells (who at least had the relative novelty of being absolutely badly behaved, quite rare in modern pop), Darlia, Barnett) have not been original enough for me to have thought that I wouldn’t have been better off going to a pub and watching a local band do something that I could get a decent pint at and chat to them afterwards (if I wanted to, unlikely given that I’m not especially sociable).

Which is part of the point that Dion was making in his paper. Recycling is happening (of course it’s always been there in pop music, brazenly) and it’s more commercialised than ever before. Blur release an album on the twentieth anniversary of Britpop to rave reviews and wall to wall coverage. Somehow Liam Gallagher is popular enough with the (dwindling) purchasers of the NME to merit being on its cover on a seeming four week cycle. And young acts want to tell you they love Bowie/Gabriel/Suede instead of wanting to spit on their corpses and kill their wizened fans. London, that once spiky culture, has turned into Paris, the most faux-radical city in the world.

No wonder when anyone under 40 can hardly afford to live in the place and it costs excruciating amounts of money to get around. The ‘creatives’ can’t afford to connect with the places where the money is. Unless they connect with the conservative culture that money tends to like.

So, in anticipation of a further post about London’s thriving classical music scene I’ll finish by saying that I think that the most radical things are now being done in those areas that I would have thought the most conservative when I was a youngster – jazz and classical. If I want to hear something I haven’t heard before I’m more likely to get it at Café Oto or the Guildhall than in Camden or Brixton.

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