Thursday, 26 February 2015

Love & Scandal


There’s something about brunch. For some it’s the brilliance of pancakes at breakfast, for others the excuse for a vodka filled Bloody Mary before midday. For me, it’s the joy of gathering a group of  pals together for a much needed catch up and to post-mortem on the previous night's antics before planning future brunch clubs.

For episode one of #BrunchClub, 7 merry souls invaded Love & Scandal, tucked away behind Waterloo station on Lower Marsh and the perfect place to chill out while getting heavily involved with French Toast. The interior is stripped back and simple with white walls made excellent by multicoloured super hero posters and cartoon strips.

The Alchemy coffee is expertly handled by the barristas who know what they’re doing and the new brunch menu is something else entirely. Having had a sneaky taste on my first trip to Love & Scandal of what would be to come, (yes, that was perhaps the best toastie I've ever consumed - hats off to chef toastie man), I had high hopes for #BrunchClub.

After a minor amount of faffing around where decision making was concerned, the majority of the table opted for ‘The Scandal,’ a French Toast toastie containing Maple syrup soaked bacon and melted Gruyere cheese. Scandalous indeed!

We headed back to our seats and eagerly awaited our food. The only annoying thing about brunch is by the time it arrives, stomachs are reaching rumble territory after having forgone breakfast in favour of future stuffing. Luckily, the wait was a short one and our Scandals appeared at the table.

Fluffy, sweet and cheesy with perfectly egg soaked bread, this is an enviable choice. I’d have added a little jug of extra maple syrup on the side for an added note of indulgence, but it’s early stages for the guys at Love & Scandal (this was their second brunch serving since opening). Other offerings included eggs benedict and posh beans on toast, with last weeks menu also featuring pancakes (here's hoping they'll be back)! 

Flat whites in full flow, we gobbled up our brunch while making the odd trip back to the counter for more, where pastries, toasties, cakes and brownies are all on offer. The brownie was more chocolate than brownie and one piece between seven was quite enough given its richness although with a scoop of ice cream, it would make a pretty spectacular dessert.

The staff at Love & Scandal are all delightful and were impressively understanding while we monopolised the entire back part of the room for 3.5 hours. Make sure you give a nod to the friendly dinosaur who I considered naming: female name - Chrysanthemum, male name - Archimedes .. turns out he's just called Dave.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) for them, we are all a little bit in love with the place, vowing to make it a permanent spot for #BrunchClub and planning to return on a dangerously frequent basis. Perhaps it's the effortlessly relaxed atmosphere or maybe the genuine friendliness of the staff, but whatever the case, Love & Scandal is more than just a neighbourhood coffee spot and was a great sweetener to our Saturday. (Nod to Henry Fielding who wrote that 'love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea' - I do love a place with a literary reference)!

Open in the evenings as a bar, Love & Scandal have a great range of beer and cocktails too – see Matt The List’s post here for an idea of its past night time activities.

I'm looking forward to the addition of Bloody Marys and am keeping my fingers crossed that something waffle related will feature on the menu soon. See you next week!

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Dead Dolls House

Something Jazzy.

Something special has journeyed to Islington and I have been on tenterhooks awaiting its arrival since the announcement of its Hoxton Square closure. Welcome one and all to The Dead Dolls House which now has a permanent spot on Upper Street and is most certainly the place to be!

Polish your jazz shoes, grab your favourite people and shimmy on over to the Victorian dolls house you'll wonder how you ever lived without.

It’s all black and white walls, cut glass and candles (spot my googly eyed pal), espresso martinis, Sunday roasts and intricately illustrated frames and fireplaces. The top floor is home to a members club with a difference and just like their first venue, entry is dependent upon bringing a gift to add an extra sparkle to their bar. (Head over to their gift list to find out what they need.) The other floors are open to all and are worth a visit if not only to ogle at the beauty of the venue!

My love for their sister venue; The Arch in Bethnal Green has been replicated, due in (large) part to the arrival of the ever fabulous Kansas Smitty’s – the Jazz band of the moment who’ll get those feet tappin’ and lips grinnin’ in no time. Negroni’s, Old Fashioned’s and Martini’s flowed while enviable nibbles made their way around the different rooms of the dolls house to the sound of the Jazz below.

Our merry team for the night was on point with fun and games from:

Matt The List,
Feeding The Cat,
Highball Hoodoo,
TryThisFor &

(Check out the musings from all the above if you’re in need of further London boozy, foodie tips)!

It is impossible not to fall in love with a place where care and attention to detail oozes from every corner and Mr & Mrs Dolls House (Adam and Kate) deserve every ounce of praise for the impressively speedy transformation of what used to be a rather tired House of Wolf into the liveliest, zaniest, most beautiful house on the street!

With space for 400, their new house is open until 4am (Thurs-Sat) where Thursdays and Sundays (till 2am) will play host to live Jazz and then DJ’s spinning on Fridays and Saturdays. On Wednesdays it's food night where Daryl Wilson is at the helm of the kitchen. He'll also be throwing his hat into the ring for the finest Sunday lunch alongside a lighter bar menu for the rest of the week, so watch this space, looks like I might have found my new weekend hangout .. who am I kidding, you'll have to tear me away! 

Club, bar, restaurant, home. You have all you need in The Dead Dolls House.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Hapiness Forgets & Original Sin

Sinful Happiness.

It’s a double whammy situation today. Two beautiful bars founded by Alastiar Burgess and his wonderful team of cocktail maestros.

Original Sin - Officially my new favourite spot, currently causing a state of distress due to its location up in Stoke Newington; a faraway land which I believe is somewhere North East (ish), the second bus threw my orientation right off kilter! 


Happiness Forgets - A tumble down the rabbit hole deal in Hoxton Square, thankfully a decidedly more central
location just a hop, skip and a jump from Old Street Station. Oozing with charm and trinkets. Look out for the giraffe and the decorative egg and get back to me.

Happiness Forgets

I shall start at the beginning. Happiness Forgets was the first brainchild of Monsieur Burgess. Tucked away in a basement, it is a pretty great date place, or an equally great people watching spot. 

All moody lighting and intimate seating, perfect for gazing deep into your partner’s mahogany brown eyes or even better for giggling at super awkward Tindates and unexpected couplings. Alternatively, you can take a seat at the frankly quite beautiful bar (candlelit shelves and brass brackets were always going to win me over), then attempt to charm the bar staff. Origami goes down pretty well so I believe. 

The mixed drinks & mischief are priced around £9 and the menu features imaginative, expertly handled twists on well known classics. If you fancy going rogue and off menu, I’m sure Dan the Magic Cocktail Man will whip you up something special. Since developing a taste for vermouth ( leather armchair on order), I’m rather partial to one of his sloe gin negronis.

Quite rightly so, this is one hell of a popular spot and although they do save some space for walk-ins, booking is definitely your best bet if you want to guarantee your happiness and forget the woes of the outside world. If (weep weep) there is no space, go and chill out with the boys at Loves Company who will always put a smile on your face!

Original Sin

Among all my moanings where Stoke Newington is concerned, I couldn't help but fall hopelessly in love with the second egg in the Burgess basket. With a wonderfully female heavy bar team (guys, I'm sure it's always a pleasure to watch a girl with a cocktail shaker), Original Sin is already causing a stir.

Original Sin is equally basement bound (beneath all the burgers at Stokey Bears) and the atmosphere is just as embracing as its Hoxton Square sibling. Looks like it might be time for a change of scenery - anybody got a room for a little 'un in Stoke New going spare?

Focussed less upon date destination and more around a friendly neighbourhood vibe, the room is set out with an everlasting bar and larger, communal booths where you can lounge around and absorb the warmth and candlelit beauty of your surroundings. It took me all of 2 seconds to decide there was was nowhere else I'd rather be.

The drop dead gorgeous pool table at the far end of the room will lure you in even further. At no cost per game and £7 -£8 for arguably some of the most skilfully concocted drinks around, you'd be a fool to ever want to leave! You might even get treated to some expert pool tuition if it is noticed that (like yours truly), you need to up your game/ generally get some game.

The drinks are made with unfaltering skill and Manager Tara Garnell's enviable wealth of knowledge about pretty much every spirit under the sun will ensure that whatever ends up in your hand will be just what you were looking for.

After a dabble in the menu, it was time to see where off piste would take us. This time, it was on a journey through Calvados Old Fashioned's, Amontillado Sherry concoctions, smoky Mezcal, pink ladies and an After Eight twist using the not as ruinous as expected Fernet. 

It took a seriously persuasive fear of missing the last tube to shift us from our seats but sadly we accepted that the time had come to head back to our own faraway land. We had taken a bite from the apple and there was no going back. Original sin has officially taken our innocence and it is only a matter of time before I'll return for another taste.

(Anybody who wants to brave the journey up to Stoke Newington to see this bountiful bar for themselves, tweet at me with a tortoise or other entertainingly unrelated emoticon and we can adventure that way together. Aren't new pals a blast)!

So here ends my tale of the double delight. Stop umming and ahhing about where to grab your next tipple and trust The Little Brown Book. Ignore the journey time to Original Sin, it's really not that treacherous but if you need easing in gently, Happiness Forgets will be sure to provide all the persuasive assistance necessary.

Bon Voyage!

Friday, 13 February 2015


The pearl of Carnaby 

Welcome to Jinjuu, London’s latest addition to the Korean dining scene which has taken Carnaby by storm since its opening in January.

Up until now, my experience of Korea has been restricted a bizarre stopover hotel room, complete with 3 dormitory arranged double beds, 100+ toothbrushes (our dental hygiene really didn’t require such attention) and one of those incomprehensible robot toilets that we definitely didn’t flood the bathroom with. The food we experienced was entirely restricted to Korean Air vacuum pack spicy rice mush and certainly not an experience I was prepared to judge the entire cuisine upon. Thanks to Jinjuu, the stomach churning taste of plane food is a distant memory and one which I am more than happy to leave behind.

JINJUU, meaning “PEARL” has celebrity chef, Judy Joo, at the helm. After working for a number of years at Morgan Stanley, she decided it was time to swap the calculator for a spoon, training at the French Culinary Institute and then under Gordon Ramsay before working at The Playboy Club.

Now in her first solo venture, she’s gone full steam ahead with two different dining concepts, both playful, casual and bursting with charm. On the ground floor you’ll find a long bar where cocktails are masterfully whipped up using a combination of known favourites with the more obscure Korean alcohol. It’s got one of those menus that requires an accompanying translation so grab the bar tender at hand who will be more than happy to take you on an adventure through its pages.

The ground floor food focuses on small dishes or ‘anju’ which are meant to be eaten while drinking. After food envy took over as we watched dishes being taken to surrounding tables, we attempted to be restrained with our ordering. Attempt failed, we ordered most of the menu, not helped (or very much helped depending on whose side you’re on) by the skilfully persuasive methods of our waitress.

While we awaited our feast, I became quickly obsessed with the most ergonomically beauteous silver chopsticks I have ever experienced, each perched delicately on a little tiny screw. It’s a wonder that the grey jumper opposite stuck around to hear me wax lyrical about the dining equipment but then I guess he couldn’t have left before he’d tasted the prawn pops, because, well, look at how tempting they are! (We’ll return to my further thoughts on the dining equipment later).

 Sweet, sticky beef bulgogi style sliders with crunchy lettuce and traditional savoury dumplings took to the table alongside pork belly filled tacos tucked inside special Jinjuu serving blocks. Each mouthful packed a punch with oriental flavours that contained just the right amount of spice. Also, just take a moment to appreciate the gorgeous grey wood table and pale earthenware crockery. Simple and  lovely. It's always a pleasure to spend time at a restaurant where such detail has gone into every last element of the dining experience, right down to the (yes I'm going to mention them again), the chopstick holders.

And onto the Bibimbap, the Korean comfort dish literally meaning ‘mixed rice’ arrived in a smooth granite stone bowl (dining equipment envy engaged), with each of the components separated out for us to see. Chopped and mixed at the table with expert hands and the option of extra spice, the aromas wafted around our poised chopsticks that were itching to dive in. Rice, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, marinated beef, gochujang sauce and egg were combined together to create the perfect sharing dish and we were glad our self control hadn't prevented us from ordering the scrumptious mix.

Downstairs is the main restaurant where you can watch the chefs at work while tucking into larger, meatier dishes and sharing plates. A return trip is in order to taste these delights! Meanwhile, we were getting involved with the dessert. It took no time for us to decide what it was going to be. The Snickers Hotteok combined peanut, salted caramel and Nutella dust. The Hotteok was described as a Korean style doughnut, but don't expect anything towards Krispy Kreme territory. It was far more cakey and scone-like but surprisingly delicious. 

After storming our way through the menu we were presented with the bill, tucked inside a shining oyster shell, a pleasant touch and completion to our Jinjuu experience. I'm not sure where the picture of me cupping the shell in my hands and raising it up into the air, Simba-style went but I'll just have to do the whole thing all over again another time. I think I can handle that!  

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The Joint

BBQ, Burgers and Beef

Marylebone has its fair share of Burger joints what with Tommi’sPatty and Bun and Meat Liquor all within a few streets. But this hasn’t stopped The Joint from throwing its hat into the ring. However, they are taking a slightly different route and offering a variation on the theme with BBQ pulled beef, pork and chicken fillings inside homemade crunchy topped buns the size of your face. And ribs. Of course they do ribs!

Sides come in the form of chicken wings, onion rings and short sticky ribs all wrapped up in paper with helpful identifying labels oh and there’s a duck. 

Each table comes equipped with its own Joint mug filled with all the napkins (you'll need 'em) and a leftovers bin inlaid into the table although it took us most of the meal to figure out what it was, perhaps we were distracted by the onion rings .. 

With another spot in Brixton, it looks like The Joint is on its way across London and I’m in full support. It’s nice to judge a burger by different standards and refreshing to see something different amongst the insane explosion of the patty.

The buns were of a staggering size but all made on site and the meat was flavoursome and juicy. Even a man sized stomach might struggle when confronted with the burger. Sides are for enjoyment as opposed to necessity, they tipped me right over the edge to the point of meat induced sofa coma so I’d advise avoiding ‘out on the town’ plans after your meal unless you can be very restrained when ordering .. why do I never learn?!

Cocktails are priced at £6.50 and are pleasant and pretty with a fresh fruity approach to counterbalance the meat feast of the rest of the meal. Also they are served in handled jars. Don't you just love a good ol' handled jar!

Looking outside into the cold, I was glad to have an extra meaty layer to keep me warm on the journey home!

The Joint on Urbanspoon

Square Meal