30 April 2013

Spring has Sprung

At last!

Bright sun shining through the blinds in the morning; blue skies; the smell of cut grass; the tulips blooming in my garden (I didn't plant them, they just appeared again...how does that happen?!)


Sadly, I also have a cold which puts a bit of a dampener on things for me but I'm not going to let it get me down - I'm not a man, after all.

Dog walks are so much more pleasurable in the sunshine. For a start there are less puddles, bogs and muddy paws all over my floor and bed sheets afterwards. But best of all it's so amazing to just bask in the sun and enjoy the beauty all around. Especially after the never-ending winter we've had.


Long walk = tired dog


"Enough with the camera, Mum! Jeez..."

And the tulips don't end there! These little beauties were just presented to me.
What a lovely hubby.


P.S. I'm going on a one-day photography course on Saturday to learn how to use all the clever little features on my digital camera. Quite excited! Hopefully you'll see a improvement next week!
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27 April 2013

Cocktail Crazy: Social Eating House / Reason & Mankind


Last night Beth and I visited two places that have one main thing in common: their rather eccentric and innovative cocktails.

Caroline      Beth
It was Friday night and we started our evening at a new London restaurant, the Social Eating House on Poland Street.

I get excited about trying these new places and I was pleased to get a reservation at this much anticipated addition to chef Jason Atherton's restaurant world (his most famous being Michelin star awarded Pollen Street Social).

Inside the restaurant it's vibrant and stylish with quirky people art adorning the walls. I was greeted warmly at the door.


We were seated and offered a cocktail while we considered the menu.


This was Beth's drink - a luminous orange sangria-type cocktail that came in a separate little bottle. Interesting!


The menu has a very nice variety of seasonal dishes. And if you like fish, you're in luck. I decided upon the Ravioli of Wild Boar Bolognese with peppered Hearts and Kidneys to start and Beth went for the Duck Smoked "Ham, Egg and Chips".


The ravioli was hearty, tender and wonderfully packed with the boar and offal filling. I love offal. The portion was quite small as you can see but seeing as I'd eaten three slices of bread before they even arrived, this was probably a good thing. Beth really enjoyed her interesting plate too, especially the pot of crispy chips acting as egg soldiers!

Our main course arrived not long after.

This is what posh macaroni cheese looks like. Very rich but cheesy and delicious.


My main was lamb neck fillet with sheep's ricotta potato.


The lamb was so incredibly tender that it needed barely any effort with the knife and fork for it to fall apart on my plate. And the potato - which I could have done with more of - was wonderfully creamy and cheesy. Exactly how I like my mash.

All in all a really lovely meal with fresh ingredients clearly combined with a lot of thought. It's not mega expensive either. The service was very attentive which we appreciated although they did tend to hover a little too much! But you can understand that as a brand new restaurant; it's great that they want to make a good impression on their first few diners.


Before we left we headed upstairs to the bar to try another of their cocktails.


The bar was busy but the staff kindly managed to get us a table after a short wait. The cocktails, however, took a lot longer. I think we were waiting about fifteen minutes but they were just about worth the wait. I'd love to tell you what they were - mine was something to do with Skittles - but I can't remember and the menu isn't online yet. So I hope the pictures will do!


Then it was a three minute walk down the road to Reason & Mankind - a new cocktail bar beyond a velvet rope and hidden downstairs in a building on Winsley Street. The venue is also home to Libertine nightclub.

Inside it's decked out with big colourful sofas and cushions. Intimate and cosy yet decadent. A video screen shows Charlie Chaplin movies above the bar.


We arrived around 9pm and it wasn't too busy so we were lucky enough to have the cocktail man all to ourselves (it was packed by the time we left at about 1am).

The cocktails here are all amazingly formulated and great fun. They are priced between £8 and £12 which I didn't think was too bad in comparison to prices in nearby hotels.

This is the menu, presented in a The Adventures of Mr Thake book.


Cocktails are served with smoke, syringes, popping candy, covered in bowler hats and set on fire (although not all at the same time!)

And they taste great too.

I'll let the pictures do the talking.


Reason & Mankind is both an intimate cocktail bar perfect for a post-work catch-up as well as a lively place to party later on in the evening. The staff were warm and it's not a bank-breaker either. A great little find and I will definitely be back. Here's hoping they'll keep adding new creations to that incredible cocktail menu.

Social Eating House
Food
★★★★
Cocktails
★★★
Atmosphere
★★★★
Bar Service
Waiter Service
★★★★
Value
★★★★
Toilets
★★★
Bouncers
N/A
The Social Eating House on Urbanspoon
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25 April 2013

Lunch at the River Café & VOC Punch House


I love it when it's sunny in London. Especially after a winter that feels like it's dragged on for months.

Caroline                 Lou
I was meeting Lou for lunch. We don't get to see each other particularly often so we always like to go somewhere a little bit special. Today we were off to the River Café in Hammersmith, one of London's most famous restaurants. It's been going strong for 25 years with a number of famous cookbooks to its name. Jamie Oliver trained here, y'know.

It also has a lovely outside dining area next to the river which was the main selling point for me. I was feeling summery!


Unfortunately by the time we arrived - having been dropped off by the taxi driver in the wrong place and fiddled around with Google maps for fifteen minutes - the day had become rather overcast and not quite the sunny day we'd hoped for. 

So we decided to take a table indoors.

The dining area is one bright open plan space with exposed kitchens, big wood fire oven and huge windows. 


The menu is handwritten (which made it a little difficult to read) and the ingredients always seasonal.


In typical Caz style, we started lunch with a cocktail. 
A perfectly mixed margarita for me.


And Lou went for the daiquiri which we thought looked and tasted exactly like the margarita. But we were assured it was a daiquiri. What do we know anyway?


Not long after we had ordered, our starters arrived. I'd gone for the Devon crab risotto with fresh tomatoes, Vermentino (a late-ripening white grape variety) and parsley.


The risotto was perfectly al dente with a satisfying amount of crab meat in there. The tomatoes were juicy and the sauce had a spicy zing to it. Really delicious (and filling!).

Lou had the Ravioli con Ortiche with nettles and buffalo ricotta.


What bright and beautiful plates of food. You can tell how fresh all the ingredients are just from the photographs.

For my main course I decided to have the spatchcocked wood-roasted Anjou pigeon served with roasted polenta and peas. Full of flavour and delicious. I thought the peas looked a bit like the bland kind you used to get served up with your school dinner. But they proved to be quite the opposite. 


Lou had the monkfish with anchovy and rosemary sauce, artichoke and trevise fritti (Italian vegetable fritters) and rocket.
They were a little heavy on the fritters but Lou really enjoyed it. 


So after all that did we still have room for dessert? 

Yes, of course we did!


So yummy.

We had a wonderful meal in a perfect lunchtime setting. The service was really friendly (although I think the waiter was a bit fed up with us when we were still at our table chatting at 5pm!). All these beautiful dishes and fresh ingredients do come at quite a price but I think the restaurant justifies it...otherwise I doubt it'd still be going so strong 25 years later.


Afterwards we headed to VOC Punch House in Kings Cross.

Billed as London's first 17th Century inspired bar, it specialises in barrel-aged drinks and bespoke designed cocktails which are aged in wax sealed bottles!  


Here I am with a Raspberry Scrub - Pampero Especial bottled with fresh lemon juice, sugar and fresh raspberries bottle matured for at least one week.


Now I've not heard of maturing cocktails before but there is definitely a lot of good to be said about it! This was fruity, tangy and fantastic! My favourite cocktail in quite some time.

You may have picked up from the photos that this bar wasn't very busy this particular evening. I can only think it was because everyone was enjoying the warm weather outside, which is fair enough - we don't get much of it here in London so we tend to lap it up while it lasts! 


But we were quite happy sipping cocktails on our own in this quirky, friendly little bar!


They are in the process of building an adjoining restaurant too so I think this place could get very popular. I will definitely be back for more bottle-aged cocktails!

River Cafe
Food
★★★★
Cocktails
★★★
Atmosphere
★★★
Bar Service
N/A
Waiter Service
★★★★
Value
★★★
Toilets
★★★
Bouncers
N/A

River Cafe on Urbanspoon
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