Wednesday, 3 February 2016


Shack Is Back 

Bone Daddies has long held a place in my heart, be it for their 'rid-one-of-all-ills' Ramen or the entertainment of an evening at Flesh & Buns. The latest addition to the clan is Shackfuyu which after spending a little while as one of those permanent pop-ups, is now just permanent. Huzzah! The cuisine is Japanese, but has chosen to exclude sushi from it's menu and focus on meatier offerings using sticky sweet sauces and sprinklings of sesame.

Vibe wise, if you're looking for something buzzing from the sounds of hungry happy people, you've come to the right place. It's available for bookings and right on the edge of Soho for when you're ready to embark on the rest of your night (Bar Termini cocktails just across the street would be a great place to start).

The food here is really just finger licking great. I'd advise dragging a couple of accomplices along and share everything so you can get a real taste of the menu. 
From sticky chicken wings with just the right amount of spice, to steak-filled soft, fluffy Bao's (lunchtime only), everything was a hit on my visit. 

Special mention must go towards the prawn toast which was light, puffy and bursting with flavour, a serious hit and nothing like the oil drenched oil that springs to mind when seeing prawn toast on the takeaway menu!

We also opted for some sweet potato fries and flat iron steak as a really unnecessary main dish (by this time, we were already stuffed) but when it arrived accompanied by pickled cabbage and ginger, there was no stopping our hasty forks.

Rumours of the excellent soft serve ice cream and kinako french toast for dessert will draw me back in no time I'm sure but we'd gone over board and somehow couldn't locate our pudding stomachs on this occasion! 

The Shack is most certainly back! Grab a bunch of mates and call to book a table on 0207 734 7492.



Opening Times

Mon 12-3pm/5.30-10pm
Tues to Fri 12-3pm/5.30-11pm
Sat 12pm-11pm
Sun & Bank Holidays

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Vaults

Mardi Gras-ing Carnivarle style with Kansas Smitty's & Shotgun Carousel!

It's of absolutely no secret to those who know me, that I'm a little bit of a dressing up fiend. Give me some face paints, an excuse to wear them and I'm already going way over board designing a costume that will be incredibly difficult to move in and probably take hours to make. Cat ears can take a hike. I'm about all the feathers, all the fabulous and all the fun.  

If this rings true to any of you then you're going to love what's going on at The Vault in Waterloo this weekend. If you're of the 'cat ears' variety, it'll be a whole load of fun for you too (but if you see me, expect to have glitter thrown your way)!

Shotgun Carousel and the ever wonderful gypsy jazzing Kansas Smitty's have teamed up to invite everyone to join them to celebrate Mardi Gras where the carnival spirit of the Deep South will be fizzing through everyone's feet! It's late night, it's jazzai, it's a New Orleans-style musical parade with all the dancing and delights on the South Bank. What more could you wish for on your Friday/ Saturday night?!

Get your crazy costume on and get ready for the ride, it's going to be super!

 Book your tickets here for Friday or Saturday (10pm - 3am) and hop on board.

There'll be prizes for the most outlandishly dressed and the King and Queen of Mardi Gras will be crowned!

The event also raises awareness for Backyard Gardeners Network, which is a nonprofit organisation, based in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward neighbourhood, helping to build a stronger community through the cultural tradition of growing food.

So, go find your flair, hunt for this pair and I'll see you there!

(Didn't I say I loved face painting?!)

Monday, 1 February 2016


Something Sri Lankan

Hoppers has created quite a storm of late, one of those ‘once you pop’ places that will draw you back time and again. In what used to be Koya on Frith street, the general concept is that of spruced up Sri Lankan with spicy DIY curries in thin pancake-esque rice-based .. pancakes called dosas and bowl shaped hoppers (it’s all in the name)!

While it is another addition to Soho’s no reservations quota, they have joyfully signed up to Qudini which lets you leave your name and number for them to alert you when your table is ready. Hurrah, then you can slip in a sneaky pre-dinner dram from Milroys or a glass of vino from the recently opened 68 & Boston just round the corner while you wait.

Adding Hoppers to their seriously successful lists of accolades (Lyles, Bubbledogs, Bao and Gymkhana to name just a handful), restauranteur trio Karam, Jyotin and Sunaina Sethi have brought Soho something it never realised it was missing and let’s all be glad they did!

We tumbled inside out of the cold and were greeted by a menu that required some explanation. Lucky for us and thanks to Hoppers, a handy little glossary is written to assist in those less well versed in Sri Lankan dialect.

The interior was immediately enveloping. Warm wooden panelling and cascading pot plants surrounded the wicker woven chairs and dimmed lighting kept everything cosy. It's the sort of place you can slip into and disappear amongst the buzz and bustle (if you can get a table that is)!

To start our adventure, we chose a couple of numbers from the "Short Eats." Some steamed rice noodles aka String Hoppers which were served with little bowls of a coconut fish sauce or Kiri Hodi and Pol Sambol, a kind of relish with coconut, onion and a hint of chilli. Part dip, part sprinkle, part pour, part mush. This set the trend for the rest of the meal.

Duck Roti with some dunking Rasa was munched up, slightly crispy and just the right amount of kick. It's exciting to taste a totally new cuisine, not to say that you can't find Sri Lankan elsewhere in London, (in fact I hear it's also great at Apollo Banana Leaf in Tooting) but for me, this was time number one and I bladdy loved it!

Before embarking on the main name of the game, I spied this superb wall of fun. Entering sneakily into my subconscious, I definitely dreamt about crazy carnivals and freaky creatures that night, but I digress. 

Enter the Hopper's and the Dosa's, fermented rice batter and coconut milk pancake/ crumpet bowls and wraps. You've really got to taste it to work out exactly how it works, because it does work; it works very well indeed!

Step 1) - Choose your hopper or dosa base (plain or egg)

Step 2) Pick your Kari (curry), for us it was lamb (£10) and fish (£9.50) 

Step 3) Add the chutney and/ or relish 

Step 4) Probably don't pay £1 for a tiny bowl of yoghurt and ask them to lay off the spice a bit instead (Sri Lankan's like it hot)!

So there you have it, some dunking, dipping and splodging later, we had our DIY curries, wrapped in the coconutty pancakes and dripping all over the shop. Don't throw all caution to the wind, this isn't quite finger food, but a happy, be it messy middle ground of half fork/ half hope to make it to your mouth in time kindof deal.

To round everything off and being the curious types we are, it had to be the Durian Ice Cream (surely they wouldn't put it on the menu if they hadn't found a way of persuading sceptical diners that it wasn't in fact the smelliest fruit in the world)! Served inside a Milk Hopper with a treacly Kithul & Jaggery, it was really pretty delicious.

And there ended our little trip to Sri Lanka in Soho. Along came the bill in a coconut shell which we definitely didn't send flying across the table to one another.

Winning rave reviews from all over the internet, Hoppers has quickly planted itself in the hearts of all who visit. A return trip is certainly in order to navigate further through the menu!

49 Frith Street, W1D 4SG (no bookings)

Opening Times
 Mon-Sat noon-2.30pm & 5.30pm-10.30pm

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Black Axe Mangal

Meat, Spice and All Things Nice

If you can battle your way out of the carnage of Highbury & Islington station on match night (or perhaps don’t be an idiot like yours truly and plan your journey a little better), then Black Axe Mangal for all the meat, spice, beer, spice, bread and spice is where you absolutely need to be headed. Unique is a word that is becoming less and less appropriate for the London dining scene but I think Black Axe Mangal might have just coined it!

Ex St. John Bread & Wine chef Lee Tiernan and his wife Kate have created a miniature Mangal avant-garde meatery that has everyone buzzing around town. Actually, it does more that meat, it just does meat very well. I could also happily munch on the pillowy, doughy flatbread for all eternity.

 We’re back in no reservations land and while the queue of eager customers is a fixture, don’t let that put you off as the turnaround is pretty speedy. All the better if you have long suffering pals to do the waiting for you (thank you Matt & Ali, I’d much rather have been smelling meaty wafts than stuck behind a dodgy haircut at the station..)!

But I digress! Back to the restaurant itself, which has some entertaining interior features with colourful painted skateboards adorning the walls, a Kiss mural oven, bright lightbulb letters and you probably should wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the tablecloths. 

Somehow all this comes together and with a some cheeky floor paintings (I’ll leave the subject matter for you to discover ... no I won't, it's covered in penises), it's all just a bit of fun.

Now to the meats! We almost made our way through the menu and with a fourth human, wouldn’t have had any troubles polishing off the lot. 

The Lamb offal flatbread (£5.50) was a spice ignitor and probably should be avoided if your spice tolerance is of the mild variety but if your chilli brain is fully geared up then it is an absolute treat, and a filling one too. 

The Welsh Rarebit is a cheesy, oniony, slightly gloopy but by no means unpleasant affair.

We also opted for Broad Bean Falafel, Curd and Squash (£9), which although tasty was a bit pricey for the portion size and could have done with some of that damned delicious bread included.

The favourite of the troops was the Bakken special, smoked lamb, roast peppers, onions and puy lentils (£14) which was a party of spices and smokey meatyness.

Drinks wise, your best bet is probably beer or water. I'm not a huge fan of spice and wine and the Mr Lyan cocktails, which although pleasantly priced at £6 are pretty much lost on the palate once the flatbreads have made their mark! Ones to order while you wait for your table perhaps. Or you could just go all out and let whisky take its toll .. we definitely didn't do that. Definitely not.

BAM has easily nestled itself in both the stomachs and hearts of Londoners all around and has many heading back for second, third and fourth helpings. I expect I'll be adding myself to that list soon enough!

Opening Hours
Open: Tuesday-Saturday 6pm-10.30pm
Closed: Sundays & Mondays

156 Canonbury Road, N1 2UP
Nearest Tube: Highbury & Islington

Monday, 23 November 2015

The Galley NW6

Whisky Tasting with Jura

The Gallery up in West Hampstead is already a delightful neighbourhood haunt with an enviable gin selection and a great range of craft beers. It has just been made even better by the introduction of its new monthly whisky tasting evenings. I went along to a Jura event to see what's in store for the inhabitants of West Hampstead and those who fancy an adventure northwards!

The night was all about getting our senses around 4 whiskies paired with 4 1/3s of beer, quite the journey! And how could you not be instantly attracted to such excellent beer tap presentation!

In the basement bar, sitting in our groups, we were all given a sequence of whisky drams, accompanied by a 1/3 of beer.

Daniel, The Gallery's delightful bar manager and Rishi, the equally entertaining Jura ambassador co-hosted the evening, taking us on an interactive journey aimed at enjoyment of the whole experience not simply the tasting of the whisky.

We were granted the treat of a mid-presentation costume change from Rishi, the explanation of which I missed, but during the transition from his blazer to his checkered shirt, he entertained us with Jura history.

Sticks of cinnamon, pieces of honey comb and other aromatic morsels were handed round to intensify the flavours of the whiskies.

The selection of canap├ęs wasn't quite enough to substitute dinner so perhaps factor this into your eating plans if you want to keep a steady head! These scallop-filled duck eggs were delicious mouthfuls nevertheless.

The Pairings

Jura Origin (10 yr old single malt) paired with Hopf Helle Weiss beer was an easy, honey tinted entry level whisky. 

Jura Superstition paired with Dunkel Lager was a peaty experience balanced by sweet caramel notes.

Durach's Own, a warm whisky aged in ex-bourbon casks for 14 years and then and extra 2 years in sherry casks was paired with Camden Town Indian Hells Lager.

Jura Prophecy, a toffee toned, peaty brandy-casked whisky was paired with the explosively weird Cantillion Kriek Belgian beer. Bright pink and cherry sharp, this pairing was surprising but my favourite of the evening.

Each month, fresh for the new year, The Gallery will be showcasing a selection of whiskies from their extensive 101 heavy collection. For £15 a head, this is a pretty damn good deal!