Drink London: The 100 Best Bars and Pubs

Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Whether it’s a recipe book (of sorts) like Polpo, which perfectly portrays the soul of Venetian cuisine - or Hamburger America, which somehow turns a roadmap of ‘mom ‘n pop’ burger joints into a genuinely touching account of changing America - a really great food or drink book has a feeling to it, a point.

Drink London is one of those books.

What I really like about it is the imagery. Every photograph has a soft, intimate feel to it that is almost surreptitious – as if shot through a documentary film maker’s eye.

The book has the difficult task of weaving its way through the many types of watering holes that a city as diverse as London is bound to have, but it manages to keep a consistent feel to each entry and nothing feels forced or out of place.

From prohibition styled cocktail joints and swanky champagne bars to traditional London ale houses and craft beer mecca’s, all of the places it’s worth drinking in are covered well and shot in that consistent beautiful, soft-focus style.

Some descriptions could be slightly improved for the beer bars, and the drinks recommendations can be a little vague - “a pint of something dark” springs to mind – but overall it really is an excellent guide to the cities best places to drink.

Written with care and shot beautifully, Drink London is a coffee table book that is small enough to fit in your coat pocket, yet has a scope and diversity that is equally ambitious and well executed.

Very much recommended.


If you don't like the heat....

Monday, October 27, 2014
I like spicy food. Hell, I'd probably consider myself something of a chili fiend, but even my limits were pushed by the Rib Man's Christ on a Bike hot sauce chicken and accompanying spicy bloody Mary (complete with yet more super hot wings).

Succulent, beautifully cooked chicken coated in a herby, crusty, well seasoned southern fried coating, before being liberally dunked in some super hot hot sauce is something right up my street. But seriously, even I was taken aback by the power of that sauce.

Moreish and delicious, no doubt, but also sweat inducing and a little bit scary - as much a cathartic experience as a meal. Those last mouthfuls coming as a finish line you scramble towards, gasping, swearing you'll never put yourself through this again.

But as a chili-head I'm a glutton for punishment - I'd do it all again in a heartbeat.


This semi sadomasochistic experience took place at Joe's Southern Kitchen in Covent Garden, and whilst the Rib Man chicken was a short term special, everything else we ate was really good too, so give Joe's a go at your leisure.





Ferment Magazine: Review of The Foragers at Verulam Arms, St Albans

Wednesday, October 15, 2014
I recently started writing for a really great little craft beer magazine called Ferment. The latest issue is out now and available to read for free here: Ferment Autumn Issue

The article I wrote is about The Foragers in St Albans, a pub that, as the name suggests, is committed to foraged food and seasonality and who recently dipped their toe into the world of brewing with some pretty impressive results.

The article is below to read but I'd really recommend you click the link above and checkout the digital version of the magazine as there's lots of other good stuff in there, including a great little item on beer cocktails which I particularly enjoyed.

If you go down to the woods today

The Foragers at The Verulam Arms, St Albans

Foraged food is something which lots of restaurants nod towards - perhaps a wild mushroom risotto on the specials board, or farmer’s market blackberries given pride of place in a dessert – but which very few grab with both hands.

One place which certainly can’t be accused of half-heartedness though when it comes to using wild, foraged ingredients is the aptly named ‘The Foragers’ at The Verulam Arms in St Albans.

This inconspicuous little back street pub concocts a range of dishes which feature foraged ingredients from the plentiful Hertfordshire woodlands and fields, just a few miles from the pub itself.

In a current special of Salt cod brandade with a parmesan and lovage crust it’s the foraged lovage herb that provides much of the seasoning to the dish - with a flavour said to be a cross between parsley and celery it’s a foraged herb that deserves more attention from chefs.

Seasonal, locally shot game dishes such as rabbit and venison are a focus of the menu, often accompanied by foraged berry sauces or wild seeds and herbs, but vegetarians are well catered for too, with the Wild leaf & feta pastry parcel being a particular highlight. Served with butterbean houmous and herb salad with a wild marjoram and hogweed seed dressing, its foraged food credentials are bested only by the quality of execution.

Wild cocktails such as the tongue-in-cheek ‘Silvanian Negroni’ are also worth sampling. In place of the usual Campari, The Foragers use their wild cherry and forest liqueur, Mars Silvanus. To add to the forest floor feeling of the drink the usual garnish of orange is replaced with twist of lemon and a sprig of Douglas Fir foliage, which gives aromatics of pine, spiced orange and grapefruit to this complex yet strangely authentic tasting Negroni.

Beer lovers will also be impressed. As well as a well-chosen and constantly developing range of craft beers in bottles and on draught they also produce their own syrups designed to be added to the German weisse beers on tap. Before beer-purists start lifting up their arms be aware that this is actually very common in Germany, and the authentic tasting woodruff syrup which they produce on site is a traditional addition to Berliner Weisse, where the almost almond-like savoury-sweetness of the woodruff compliments the sourness of the beer.

The next step in The Foragers development into a beer lovers mecca was inevitable really – to start brewing their own. And what better time to launch their beer than at a recent Oktoberfest event.

The simply named ‘Festweisse’ was brewed in the traditionally cloudy and fruity hefeweizen style but seemed a touch darker than I was expecting, just short of a dunkel in fact. The flavour was spot on though, and a fantastic achievement for a first try.

In the aroma you get the classic banana and clove alongside a just a sniff of alcohol (it's a not to be sniffed at 5.4%). The flavour is soft, smooth and full with a nice light spice, more clove and fruit character. The hops – which were, of course grown in The Foragers’ beer garden - very much take a back seat, but there is a pleasingly tannic tea quality in the finish which gives enough dryness to make it very refreshing. Some spritzy carbonation from kegging might add to its effectiveness but the cask serve does let the subtleties come through that might otherwise be lost.

The food and drink quality at The Foragers has rightly earned it a sterling reputation, but with the addition of house-brewed beers, they’ve really taking things up a notch, making this a must-visit pub for any foodie-beer-lovers worth their hogweed salt.