La Caprice

A wise man named Samuel Johnson once said “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” Well I’m not a man and I’m not tired of life or of London, but sometimes I do find London tiring.

I also think that when we become so immersed in London life, we run the risk of forgetting that life exists outside of it. So I think that once a month it is important to head to Waterloo, King’s Cross, Liverpool Street or whatever tickles your station fancy, and get the hell out of here. Explore the quaint villages of Sussex, Dorset and Devon, ride the train north to the Yorkshire Dales or to York itself, go punting in Cambridge, crabbing in Norfolk, swimming in Suffolk…

As it so happens, I’d been out of the capital for over a week until yesterday. My! What an itch I had!  Like methadone to a heroin addict, was London to me…I needed to come back, I had to come back. Rested and rejuvenated the smoky fumes, moody people and crammed underground beckoned me.

Well that and my job. Last night I was sent to the Robin Howard Dance Theatre to review choreographer Bawren Tavaziva’s new show ‘Greed’, and I had a +1. Friends, that is another thing that I love about London, the friends that you made years ago, that splintered after school as you went off to your respective universities, now they’re back. You’re all in the same place. The added bonus of being sent to events; restaurants reviews, bar reviews, theatre reviews and art exhibitions, with a +1, is that I am given the opportunity to rekindle friendships that had floundered into semi-lit embers.

Which brings me to Richard Kemeny. Kenny and I were the closest of friends at school. Then June 2007 hit and our paths separated, from seeing eachother every day over the next five years we saw eachother just 4 times. This was until three weeks ago, when I invited him to be my +1 to Siro-A in Leicester Square. A writer himself and game for coming along to the more alternative events, after the success of our last reviewing experience, I did not hesitate to invite him again.

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This time we went for supper first. Meeting at Warren St Station just after 6.30 p.m, the two of us embraced and set off to find Caprice Mediterranean Restaurant. Having just acquired an Ipad, I took the lead and started following the flashing dot on the map app…sense of direction has never been my forte and ten minutes later we were in the depths of a derelict housing estate, at which point Kenny suggested that I might want to put the Ipad away.

A £5 taxi journey later (taking us in completely the opposite (and correct) direction) we found ourselves outside of Caprice – a restaurant that I had found on top table. Situated just behind the Euston Road, Caprice was also, by my calculations, a two-minute walk from the Robin Howard Dance Theatre. A simplistic interior, separated into two main dining areas, Caprice was just what we were after – a relaxed in and out job. The waiters were quick and attentive, and the paper-printed menus contained the perfect array of sustenance to keep us going through the remainder of the evening (which wasn’t as successful). We decided to go for a series of starters –  bruschetta,sausage, prawns and halloumi and we also ordered a bottle of Pinot Noir.

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Both having given up drinking on Sunday, our two day drought meant that the wine gave us its full effect. And then the reminiscing began – accompanied by a lot of laughter. Working out that it had been 10 years since we first met, we – and the pinot – decided that it would be a good idea to have a photograph to mark the occasion. The two ladies and the neighbouring table obliged and after telling them that it was our ten year anniversary, but perhaps not explaining properly that it was our ten year platonic anniversary of knowing eachother, the stand-in photographer shouted ‘Hold hands!’ At which point, rather abruptly I shouted ‘NO!’

This received rather an odd look, which Kenny then made the most of: ‘God I take you out to dinner and you won’t even hold my hand.’ I got the giggles, Kenny got the giggles and to save the facade we took this little number:

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Food-wise Caprice was quick, simple and very acceptable. It wasn’t expensive (£35 for two including a bottle of wine) and it was perfect for what we needed; a speedy but agreeable meal. The experience was fantastic and I haven’t laughed that much in a very long time, but Caprice can’t really take the credit for that – Kenny can.

Address: 3-9 Chalton St, London NW1 1JD
Phone:020 7387 2017

Eat and then tweet – a social faux pas?

Josie Ensor’s article for The Telegraph hit a nerve; I realised that I am guilty of the ‘new social faux pas’ that is sweeping across Britain’s restaurants. My canon powershot sx230 and I are guilty, as guilty as they come, of food photography.

Ensor quotes Martin Burge, the head chef of the two Michelin-starred Dining Room, as saying: “The food bloggers who are there to review the meal for their own website are the worst.” And even more upsetting, Michel Roux Jr asserting: “Personally, I think it’s incredibly poor manners.”

Until now, I have never been accused of having poor manners and it hurts. I don’t want to be guilty of ‘spoiling the ambiance’ of restaurants, or ruining the dining experience. But what to do? Pictures do paint a thousand words – and the majority of people aren’t willing to read a 1,000 word blog.

Be rude and keep the hits flowing, or be polite and have a dud of a blog?

It’s going to have to be:

HEART

The latter – I’m afraid I heart it too much.

A leopard can’t change it’s spots and – despite the embarrassment it may cause – nor can I.

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Eddie hiding from the Telegraph’s awful truth.

The Salt Yard

My brother recently blogged about Dabbous – the restaurant that food critics are going crazy over. The restaurant that has a waiting list of over a year. I recently blogged about Bubbledogs – the restaurant that, more often than not, has a two-hour queue. What they both have in common, other than requiring a lot of patience, is that to get to them one must go to Goodge Street. That wonderful underground station whose name warms the larynx and positively ooooooozes out of one’s mouth. Goodge Street has become the breeding ground for culinary excellence, so when asked to The Salt Yard – which too is situated in this inglenook of foodie wonder – I did not hesitate to say ‘yes.’

Globules of slushy snow stuck to my eyelashes (causing mascara mayhem) as I exited the tube 15 minutes ahead of schedule. I think this is one of the pitfalls of being a journalist; I am irritatingly punctual and try as I might I can’t play it cool; I have to be on time. With mascara streaming down my face, I took shelter in a nearby Starbucks and made some necessary cover-up alterations before my dining companion arrived. Twenty-minutes later and sans black facial tributaries, he arrived and we set off to number 54 Goodge Street; to The Salt Yard.

I can’t remember the last time that I went to a Spanish restaurant, but my last Spanish meal was courtesy of my Florence Academy of Art friend’s Spanish/Scottish friend – Laura, and that was a feast of  Tortilla. Though there was an option of this local specialty, I opted against it for I wanted to keep that memory intact. Instead, my companion and I went for a variety of Tapas. The menu is broken down into three categories; fish, meat and vegetables. Though offered a starter of meat and cheese, we decided that we didn’t want to waste valuable stomach space and would prefer to work our way chronologically through the categories. First up was:

FISH

SQUID      Crispy Baby Squid, Squid Ink Alioli and Puntarelle

SCALLOPS SYRoast Scallops, Jerusalem Artichoke, PX Glaze and Artichoke Crisps

Then came:

MEAT

PORK SHOULDERChargrilled Iberico Presa with Butternut Squash, Golden Sultanas and Sage

DUCKConfit Duck, Mustard Spaetzle, Pomegranate, Chestnut and Mint

And finally:

VEGETABLE

COURGETTECourgette Flowers stuffed with Goat’s Cheese and drizzled with Honey

TRUFFLEWild Mushroom Ravioli, Cavolo Nero, Walnuts and Black Truffle

All of which was washed down with a bottle of:

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Even with its impeccable reputation, Goodge Street did not falter under pressure and provided yet another stand-out performance. The only minor issue were the waitresses, who were at times, in danger of crossing over the line of relaxed to slow. However, once the food arrived (which, after managing to get the orders in, was quick) any quibbles were forgotten and a new-found love for both Tapas and Spanish food overwhelmed me. The Salt Yard is well worth a visit and an excellent venue to enjoy with both friends and first dates.

Food: **** Wine: **** Service: **

An Ejaculatory Sausage & Bubbledogs

Thick, stiff and long I put it to my mouth. The taut skin warms my lips, I cannot take it any longer – I have to have it. I bite.

It catches me off guard and shoots something hard into the back of my throat. Rich and creamy, globules of it stick behind my teeth. I run my tongue across them – none of this is going to waste.

That was the first time I bit into a Käsekrainer.

The Käsekrainer is a German sausage with a molten cheese centre. I was in Leeds at the annual German Market. My friend experienced the ejaculatory sausage at the same time – she felt like, I quote, it had ‘violated’ her.

Me, I loved it. I haven’t stopped hunting them down since. Which is part of the reason why I love this season – Christmas is a sausage-fest. And in the wise words of my good friend Flash: “There’s nothing like a good sausage.”

So, as you can imagine, when I received an invitation last week to join my friends Jamie, Ben and Mathilda at new restaurant sensation ‘Bubbledogs,’ I jumped at the chance.

Last night was the night. Arriving at Goodge Street station to the slight pitter patter of rain, I took a right and trotted down to Charlotte Street. My three companions were already in the queue (I’d arrived at 6.45pm – they’d been there since 6 pm), but the popularity of this spot meant that a further 30 minute wait was ahead of us.

Two beers and a Ribena later, we finally made it in. Small, rustic and intimate, Bubbledogs felt like an apres-ski bar. Perched on stools, we flicked through the clip-board menu and deliberated.

What was nice about this was that we weren’t rushed. Money was queuing up outside, but they didn’t push for the covers. Once you were in, you were entitled to a proper dining experience – a relaxing night out.

The ‘dogs’ were on the last page of the menu and the choice wasn’t extensive. Especially compared to the ‘bubbles’ who took up the other six pages.

Unfortunately, not for want of looking, there was no ejaculatory sausage. So I went for a pork ‘sloppy joe,’ (as did Ben). Tilda went for a pork ‘JOSÉ’ and Jamie for a pork ‘Buffalo dog.’ We also ordered all the sides (sweet potato fries, tots (mini hash browns), coleslaw and molten cheese) and washed it down with a fantastic bottle of pink champers.

Tasting rather like a Frankfurter, the ‘dog’ wasn’t on a par with the dreamy Käsekrainer – it all tasted a bit reconstituted and plastic. I misinterpreted ‘chilli’ to mean jalapenos and was rather surprised to find a good old dousing of Bolognese lathered on top. On reflection, that was rather foolish – it was called a ‘sloppy’ after all.

The food wasn’t bad by any means, it just wasn’t exceptional – which after waiting for an hour and a half – you do expect.  But whatever qualms I had with the food were amended by the champagne (delightful) -and the setting – and of course the company.

Bubbledogs is a great idea. It offers a relaxed night out and the combination of ‘bubbles’ and ‘dogs’ is surprisingly enjoyable – but this is all once you’ve got in. I would suggest going, but would advise getting a group of six together and making a reservation as waiting outside in the rain for an hour and a half cannot help but put a dampener on things.

Food: ** Champagne: **** Experience: ****

70 CHARLOTTE ST, LONDON W1T 4QG   INFO@BUBBLEDOGS.CO.UK

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