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 canapés 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!

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Diner Soho

A Thanksgiving Feast

Give me an excuse to eat a celebratory meal and I'm probably going to be hands in. Hello Thanksgiving and all the over-indulgence that this American holiday has granted London. Clutch your stomachs because true to US tradition, The Diner has gone all out with it's Thanksgiving menu and is taking no prisoners. 

It was with more of a distracted air than a naiveté that I approached The Diner with my partner in crime for the evening. Whether it was the necessary catching up, the excellence of their company, a long day, or all three, I had not prepared myself for what was to come. What. Was. I. Thinking?! Where were my stretchy (to use the Americanism) pants or my loose and spacious t-shirt? That's what being prepared for Thanksgiving is right? Take a gander at this lot!

First up, welcome to the stage, the appetisers. Fried mozzarella sticks (£6) with chunky, peppery dipping sauce and a generous half of lime. Doing exactly what it says on the tin, these cheesy fingers are sure to whet any appetite (just don't get carried away and polish them all off if you want a chance of being able to stand up after your meal)!

Next in line is the Turkey Frito Pie (£3.50), a bag of Frito's split open, coated in rich, pulled turkey and smothered in generous dollops of sour cream, guacamole and jalapeños. Think nachos US style and a good nibble to prepare your stomach for the onslaught of the Waffle Cobbler.

I'm going to take a short break and introduce you to the Diner G 'n' Teas. A refreshing alcohol-tipped alternative to an ice tea, fully equipped with tea bag for extra infusion!

And so here we have it, not for the faint hearted, or to be honest even the relatively stable. The Waffle Cobbler (£10) is a Frito breaded cream cheese stuffed turkey patty sandwiched between two fluffy potato waffles. While you can be almost certain that this beast will leave you a few stone heavier, it ticks all the boxes for your meaty thanksgiving feast.

To accompany the cobler, choose between fries covered in pulled turkey and chunky coleslaw with deliciously sharp cranberry sauce and macaroni cheese hiding pigs in blankets (both £6).

Last but not least if you haven't destroyed your insides enough, it's time to paint the town red with an attack of the s'more. If you can squeeze any more inside, here we have the traditional toasted marshmallow, graham cracker and the slightly less traditional red coloured melted nutella (ode to Santa or so I believe).

That is all. Phew. The Diner's Thanksgiving menu is self-consciously gimmicky but an all-round entertaining experience. Grab a gang of stretchy-stomached pals and stuff in as much as you can fit! I seriously doubt you're on the hunt for a gourmet meal if The Diner is luring you inside, here it's just a bit of light hearted fun and a hellofa lot of food. Good Luck comrades!

Dragging myself and my stomach behind me, I arrived home and all but passed out on the sofa, but that's all in the spirit of the Thanksgiving feast right?!

We were invited as guests of The Diner but as always, the scribblings reflect the truths of my stomach!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Festive Feasting

A Tasty Trio

Winter is here, all hail Winter and I'm not one for shying away from the cold. Having acquired a stupidly large bobble hat and entertaining a mild obsession with chunky knit jumpers, a little bit of a chill isn't going to prevent me from leaving the confines of my flat. This is particularly true given the wondrous range of festive fun and frolics in London this winter. 

Get your diaries at the ready, I'm going to give you a little low-down!

* * *

For the mulled wine fiend, Yelp has created one of the greatest ideas of the year, a Mulled Wine Festival! (Well done Yelp, all the applause)! 
Featuring a multitude of stalls offering mulled wine, mulled cider and mulled mead, you'll have your work cut out making your way around. There'll also be mulled jelly shots and mulled ice creams to get involved with (I'm keeping an open mind) and of course, the prized festive mince pie.

When: 12th -14th November
12pm - 9pm
Where: Covent Garden Piazza
Tickets: Free if you post on the app or a £10 donation to Connection at St-Martin-in-the-Field

* * *

For South London festive feasting, Taste of London is back and this time with their winter version, featuring an enormous array of London restaurants, chefs, artisan producers, baristas, mixologists and as many of you wonderful food loving explorers who can make it! Don't forget to fill up your wallets though, you'll find yourself munching through your tokens at an alarming rate.

When: 19th - 22nd November
Where: Tobacco Dock, Wapping
Tickets: £15 on sale at www.tasteoflondon.co.uk 

* * *

 For West London Scandi festive feasting, Little Feast has arrived in Shepherds Bush. Food is in the form of wood-fired pizzas, slow-roasted meaty flatbreads, cheeses, waffles, burgers and more tasty treats. 
From the 13th, you can go grab a Christmas tree and watch the unveiling of their giant advent calendar. In keeping with the Christmas spirit, carol singers, choirs and jazz bands will keep the mood festive while there's an adults only 'dirty santa's grotto' .. I'll leave that there for you to ponder!

When: Nov 5th - Dec 23rd
Where: Shepherds Bush Yard
Tickets: Nope, freeeeeeee! (Also, sign up here and you'll get a free winter warmer on arrival)

Now go have all the festive fun and frolics. I'll see you on the other side!

Thursday, 5 November 2015


A Frith St Favourite

Enter Barrafina and all things Spanish in Soho. 1st in the Barrafina clan, this one is fresh, bright and decorated with that royal blue and white which makes even the dreariest of days a distant memory. This is another one for timing your visit carefully or be willing to wait your turn as it's no reservations and seats are like hotcakes here on Frith Street.

We caught the end of a lunchtime service and ordered at lightning speed, miraculous given that we would have devoured everything on the menu given the chance. A firm favourite of many a trusted source, I'd been eagerly awaiting my trip to Barrafina.

To start we ordered crispy curls of squid and creamy croquetas. With a healthy squeeze of lemon we soon polished off the lot, a delicious reminder of our now distant holidays. (Hello November, now I'm ready for you)!

The ice counter was piled with the catch of the day, awaiting its fate in the pan. With it in view, our waiter pointed out the pieces of fish that would be making it onto our plates at any moment and we sat, eager as beavers.

First up was the show-stopping dish of the day, rich squid ink risotto with tender grilled cuttlefish. This dish has reached the Little Brown Book hall of fame for its perfect balance and true tasty stations.

Mouth watering pluma Iberica with confit potatoes and sweet heritage tomato salad continued our Spanish journey. With an open top counter we could watch the chefs at work and sit in the centre of the action, just where I like it!

Regardless of stomach space, dessert was a must. The chocolate tart was perhaps a little too rich and heavy on the chocolate front for one, but an excellent two spoons job. With lunch polished off, we made our way back outside, tipped our caps to Chotto Matte (another firm favourite) and sauntered off home still dreaming of cuttle fish. 

54 Frith Street, Soho, London, W1D 4SL 

Mon - Sat 
Lunch | 12 Noon - 3pm 
Dinner | 5pm - 11pm 

Lunch | 1pm - 3:30pm
Dinner | 5:30pm - 10pm