31 October 2014

Le Bun at The Three Compasses

Burgers burgers, everywhere. London's love affair with all things Americana shows no sign of slowing down any time soon and it seems that every corner you turn, you'll find a rib shack, burger bar or BBQ rustling up buns of varying degrees of success. The Burger Awakening only struck me a year or so ago so I'm a little slow on the uptake of the various outlets but the only one on my list worth writing home about (and revisiting) is MeatMission. Until now.

Le Bun is stealing the show. Fresh from winning Sky and Samsung's Launching People and a two month residency at the Old Bengal Bar, Le Bun have taken over Dalston Pub The Three Compasses to offer fast food French-style. Last night was their launch party, and with the promise of great food, 50% off and killer tunes, it was suitably rammed.



















With no time to lose, we did what four sensible people do when offered six options - order one of each and dive right in. I kicked off with the Le Bourguignon Bun (I was swayed by the promise of bacon salt, champagne slaw and truffle mayo) and practically inhaled it, it was so good. The slow-cooked meat was deliciously melt in the mouth with a great depth of flavour from the glaze; crunchy cabbage slaw added that bit of tang and the saltiness from the bacon and truffle rounded everything off. The rest of the team didn't even get a look in.

Le Duck Frites Bun was equally as sumptuous with crispy straw fries packed straight into the bun, whilst Le Chevre managed to serve up a whole wedge of oozing goats cheese, topped with that biting crunchy slaw for good measure. Le Royale With Cheese sold out pretty sharpish and passed the boys' meat test (ie. plenty of it) and this time, I was the one who missed out.



We didn't stop there. After catching up with the brains behind Le Bun (Tim Talbot and Andy Taylor) we just couldn't resist even more food. So out came three sliders and Le French Onion Dog - the first three were 'down in one' affairs (see the boys about to get stuck in) and the dog we shared, all grinning beatifically. Also, who fries parsley? It's genius!

These guys have got the burger thing down, I'm a total convert. They're sticking with The Three Compasses for a while and are also running Taco Tuesdays (self explanatory, right?), Steak Frites nights on Wednesdays complete with Red Wine Roulette and a toasty winter garden to wrap up in. Whilst you're out there, try one of the crazily moreish winter warmers from Kamm & Sons - I fell in love with the Hot Roots so have one for me.

Le Bun, I salute you. Cinq out of cinq. Bravo.

17 October 2014

Reasons why I love London #356661





Because last night we took our new American colleague out on the town. We started at Burger & Lobster obviously, then went to Soho Hotel for the best espresso and pornstar martinis in the city. From there we went to Freedom and caught the weirdest live karaoke experience before dancing long and hard at Ku Bar. Thursdays are great.

9 October 2014

The Noah's Ark, Lurgashall

I had to dash home last minute at the weekend to do a bit of house- and cat-sitting. The mad dash for a seat on the train home is worth it the second you step off the other end and are whisked home through beautiful tunnels of orange and red leaves. I hadn't been back since the summer - which in itself is always glorious back home - but the countryside is so much better in the autumn. Those crisp mornings, those freezing nights and wait a second, are those actually stars? I grew up outside a sleepy village in the middle of nowhere so spent most of those angsty teenage years surrounded by fields and clawing together money to escape by working in the various local pubs.

One of the places that I didn't work was the Noah's Ark, in Lurgashall. Sitting pretty on one of the most picturesque greens, this gastropub is hugely popular in the summer - and so too it seems, on a Friday lunchtime in October. This may have something to do with how gorgeous a day it was - perfect blue skies and so warm we just had to start with a bottle of wine outside.

Moving inside for lunch, we were both swayed by the daily special of scallops with pancetta. The sweet honeyed meat of the scallops was perfectly countered by the accompanying saltiness and crispiness. Expertly grilled, they were so moreish that my only gripe (which is always my only gripe when it comes to scallops) is that there weren't more. But I think my bank balance is thankful for this.

From there, I was torn between the seabass (told you I'm a safe bet) and the tempura battered haddock and chips (a pub staple) but went for the (unimaginative) baked camembert that was oozing with melting goodness and studded with garlic and rosemary. I devoured this with lashings of bread and a rocket and parmesan salad whilst dad chose the burger: a huge patty that was still perfectly pink, accompanied by bacon and cheese as standard and the added bonus of a grilled portobello mushroom all wrapped up in a toasted bun with plenty of chunky chips to keep him busy. Typical pub fare maybe but done well. 

Finished off with a latte for dad, an affogato for me and plenty of reminiscing from the both of us. The Noah's Ark is one of those places that reminds me so much of my younger years and being both sides of bars, the slow pace of life and how everyone knows your name (sometimes good, sometimes definitely not). Worth a visit if you're in the area. Or even if you're not. Just go.

8 October 2014

Mussel Men

My ever-blossoming love affair with lobster continues. I don't know really know where it's come from; my first memory of a live lobster was a family holiday to Antigua where I'd sat with my back to the tank and was completely freaked out by it's long antenna reaching out of the glass to settle on my head. A few days later, at OJ's Beach Shack down the coast I got my own back and had one grilled to perfection.

Since then, I hadn't really eaten lobster - it's not the most cost-effective way of getting your fish fix, after all - until Burger & Lobster opened and wild horses can't keep me away. It's embarrassing how often I find myself in there, lobster cracker and fork in hand, but this week I cheated on them and tried somewhere new for a change. Kingsland Road's Mussel Men.


Another restaurant, another great pun. Starting life as a seafood pop up, it's found a forever home in Dalston, tucked down from the Kingsland station and a stone's throw away from chains such as The Diner and my nemesis, Nando's. The all-in approach to decor (fishing nets, obligatory driftwood and a huge painted seascape) is actually a nice touch without being over the top and whether it's a coincidence that the really friendly front of house staff were all in Breton stripes, I'm not sure, but cute nonetheless.

Mussel Men's menu is short and sweet and ever-changing. You'll find the obligatory mussels (mariniere and a weekly special offering) of course, as well as fillets and steaks from the grill, scallops and oysters. But we'd come for the Lobster Tuesday special - half a lobster, chunky chips and a beer for £20. Not quite as good as Burger & Lobster's offering but they have size on their side, and Mussel Men's normal half costs £18 so there's a lot to be said.


Served on a (hot) slate, the lobster is steamed then topped with a hollandaise sauce that's lightly grilled. Smaller than I was expecting (huge fiend) but expertly cooked, the meat was tender and juicy and hugely moreish. I was completely cack-handed with the claw cracker and fork but the meat I did manage to salvage (and suck from the legs) I mopped up with the rest of the hollandaise and mayo on the side. Chips were huge and floury and the beer? We had a pint of the Samwells IPA - more lagery than ale and very fruity. For an extra £1, you can choose wine but there's something satisfying about devouring a lobster with a hardy pint of something hoppy.

By the time we left, the restaurant was full - a nice sign for a Tuesday night - with corks popping, mussels steaming and oysters being slurped by the dozen. Mussel Men is a great welcome addition to an area that's still coming to terms with its newfound popularity. Do their lobsters beat my firm favourite? Afraid not but I'll definitely be back.

1 October 2014

New Street Grill

Blink and you'll miss it. New Street Grill is tucked down an alley, a stone's throw away from Liverpool Street station, but far enough off the beaten track that you'd never know it was there. I hadn't heard of it until J invited me out for L's birthday; I found them all sitting outside in the very summery Old Bengal Bar garden. You see, the Old Bengal Warehouse - apparently London's oldest surviving spice and tobacco warehouse in the City - houses not one but three bar/restaurants and a wine shop. The guys at D&D have been busy.

We moved next door into the New Street Grill and while waiting for G, ordered the first of our three bottles of red (which helpfully I now can't remember the name of, other than it was a Cote du Rhone). The restaurant's dark and seductive - lots of leather and low lighting for getting lost in - and divided up into booths and tables, all flanked by a floor to ceiling wall-length wine fridge that houses some of the 350 bottles on offer. The menu is leather bound too and brought with the wine and warm bread, making decisions hard as drinking and eating take over. 


With a nod to its name, there is indeed a selection of dishes from the grill - from cuts of Angus and wagyu beef to lobster - but also a 'crustacea' section offering oysters and a shellfish platter, and partridge and grouse for the gamier tastes. Alongside the a la carte, they also offer a Saturday set menu (three courses and an after dinner cocktail for £24.50) which was far too tempting to pass up. 

I started with the venison carpaccio - the expertly thin slices of sweet were perfectly sweet, coupled with the tangy parmesan and rocket, and a nice alternative to the standard beef. From there I was tempted by the braised daube of beef with creamed potatoes and red wine jus (which looked amazing) but went for the slightly more predictable pan fried seabass, celeriac puree and braised leeks. I just like seabass, okay?! Perfectly crispy skin, smooth puree and buttery leeks - I just wish there had been more of it. Very small sides of buttery new potatoes and baby carrots were nice accompaniments but the lobster macaroni was (unsuccessfully) calling my name.

Dessert was a mixed bunch - I went for the iced brownie parfait which was a real disappointment. Sizeable chunks of brownie but the accompanying ice cream was practically tasteless and left me hankering for the Colston Basset stilton and spiced pear chutney that the others had chosen. 

We'd drank the place out of the Cotes du Rhone at this point so decided to settle up and head next door for our complimentary cocktail. A more industrial but still dark sliver of space, the Old Bengal Bar promised to get busy later but never really delivered. Nonetheless, the cocktail was pretty good - Mount Gay Black Barrel rum, Maraschino liquor, grapefruit juice with lime and sugar syrup. A bit of a knock out after all.


New Street Grill has its pros and cons - it promises to be a 'destination' and could be a real star in an area of the city that is pretty underserved in smarter restaurants, and the service is very friendly and attentive, but the food is just a touch underwhelming and the Bengal Bar a little 'Deliverance' in style. Three and a half out of five.

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