The Butcher & Grill

‘Great, not only am I the first and only one here, but Laura’s booked us into a shop,’ I thought as I pushed open the door to Battersea’s The Butcher and Grill at 6 p.m last Friday. Aisles of cheeses and meats lay out like a maze before me and a delicatessen complete with a man in a funny hat rested to my right.

Last Friday, you may recall was my 24th birthday. A party had been organised in the neighbouring Magic Garden pub and my sister suggested that we have a family supper beforehand to line our stomachs. So, I was rather concerned on entering the establishment as to whether we would be able to eat there.

This concern, however, was quickly alleviated as I meandered through the shop section to find a bar and restaurant area hiding at the back. Ordering a large glass of red wine, I propped up the bar by myself and sent a series of abusive text messages to my siblings. My brother was walking and my sisters were on a bus replacement service. I drained the glass and, after mentioning that it was my birthday, was given some complimentary olives.

It was during this period of solitude that I decided to have a proper look at my surroundings. This place was cool, really, really cool. The shop/restaurant thing really works, it’s sort of like a self-sufficient home. The produce they sell, they also use themselves. Even at 6 p.m there was a fantastic atmosphere and sitting by myself didn’t cause a stir – the waiters and waitresses didn’t ask me about where everyone was or usher me to our table.

I finished my olives and my brother arrived fresh in from setting up the Real Nice party in Brixton. He brought with him a present (which I really wasn’t expecting). ‘Ah, thanks Charles.’ I opened it to find a bumper pack of sports direct socks reduced to £3.99. He laughed.

Brother was soon followed by my sisters, who had ditched the bus in favour of a taxi, and we were shown to our table and handed menus. And what a menu it was! From poached pear and walnut salad, to barbary duck, to steak tartare to mussels, well I wanted everything.

Alas, this wasn’t going to be a possible and with time running out, we opted to go for just the one course. This course would be from the grill (it was in the name afterall). Claudia and Charles shared the 750g Chateaubriand (which takes half an hour to cook) and chose both the red wine sauce and the béarnaise sauce to accompany it.

Laura and I chose the fillet steak and also chose the béarnaise sauce. We also ordered sides of wilted spinach, green beans and roast field mushrooms. And a bottle of Argentinian Malbec, which was, quite simply, exceptional.

The food too, was absolutely superb. The Chateaubriand was presented so beautifully on a chopping board that it even got my brother reaching for his Iphone (oh eaters and tweeters). Ordered medium rare it did come rather on the rare side, but this didn’t affect its deliciousness and the pair readily attacked it.

The fillet steak too was scrumptious, with its juicy interior complemented fantastically by the creamy béarnaise sauce. Noteworthy also, were the field mushrooms, whose garlicky notes added an extra dimension to the dish. Yummy.

Though only a fleeting visit, the impression has been made and I shall definitely be returning to The Butcher and Grill. It was the perfect balance of casual-yet-fine-dining and set us up perfectly for the night to come.

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The shop/restaurant floor

ChateaubriandImage

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Fillet steak

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The family

Taboo

The Olivier Award-winning tale of 80s superstar Boy George is back on stage. Yes, musical biopic Taboo has returned. Gloriously eccentric, wildly decadent and fabulously opulent yet with a constant subterranean sadness, Christopher Renshaw’s production of the Boy George musical is fine-tuned perfection.

The plot follows two young lovers Billy (Alex Jordan-Mills) and Kim (Devon-Elise Johnson) in their quest to succeed in the exciting artistic climate of 80s London, an era which was defined by its superstars and the New Romantic movement. On moving to the city, Billy meets Boy George (Paul Treacy) and Leigh Bowery (Sam Buttery), and the audience are drawn into the depths of the extravagant world of stardom, accompanied by the era’s smash hits.

The Brixton Club House is transformed into the perfect set. With its dark walls, fully stocked bar, smoky interior and a stripper-esque stage, you are physically brought into the realms of the sordid and forbidden 80s nightclub. As much as the actors are depicting debauchery, your surroundings also work hard to involve you in it.

A whirlwind of a history that tracks the career of Boy George in just under three hours, the actors do well to convincingly portray the chronological shifts. Treacy’s performance is faultless and his resemblance to the star uncanny – both physically and vocally. Strong vocals were evident from each cast member, with Katie Kerr (Big Sue) and Julia Worsley bringing impressive power to the female roles. Sam Buttery was utterly absorbing as Leigh Bowery and Paul Kevin-Taylor shone in his three roles as Derek, Lucien Freud and Petal. His performance of Petal, the drug-pushing transgender hooker, was particularly entertaining.

Especially noteworthy was Olivier award-winning actor Paul Baker. Baker played an articulate, witty and slightly menacing Philip Salon and both narrated and acted in the production. A wonderful comic presence, Baker’s snarling and withered facial expressions were brilliantly timed, and his interaction with the audience both unnerving and incredibly amusing.

“From squat to superstardom, from rock to rock bottom”, Taboo traces the turbulent emotional period of one of England’s greatest icons, but avoids the trap of creating too dark an atmosphere. Turmoil, laughter, loneliness, success and lashings of brilliant music, Taboo is an award-winning sensation that demands attention.

Verdict:••••

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/01/11/theatre-review-taboo-at-brixton-club-house/

 

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.

An Arabica Affair

I have been frequenting the same coffee-house for the last eight months, it has become, I suppose, my local. I love it there; snuggling into a corner with my laptop and writing the day away – a good quarter of my book was written while tucking into the establishments frothy cappuccinos. But now things have changed.

Though we chat daily, I don’t know his name. Tanned, with a quaff of rich dark hair and duck-egg blue eyes, he is the barista of female fantasy – the perfect Mills & Boon protagonist. Distracting? Slightly, but then sometimes a little distraction is welcome, it keeps the writing fresh. No, that’s not the problem. The problem is that he has taken to giving me free coffee.

“That doesn’t sound like a problem to me,” I hear you say. But, it is. It makes me feel uncomfortable, is there a hidden agenda? Am I indebted to this dreamy individual? Looking at him was fine – there were no strings attached, but now, now I’m involved. I’m an accomplice to this caffeine charity, I am accepting what I know to be wrong. We’re having an illicit arabica affair. The thing is, I’ve tried to pay – today I tried to slip over some extra cash for the free peppermint tea he brought to my table yesterday (it isn’t a table service place.)

What do I do? I no longer feel relaxed. I feel nervous; constantly worried that when I look up our eyes will meet and I’ll feel the guilt of our little secret. I still love the place and it is extremely geographically convenient, but is it not tainted? Do I need to find a different caffeine dispensary?

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The Novel Diner does The Great Gatsby

Feathers dance, heels clip and pearls swish. The notes of the piano and saxophone caress each other through the air, cocktails are poured into dainty flutes and puffs of smoke elegantly ooze from cigarellos momentarily etching themselves against the night sky.  It’s 1922 and we’re in West Egg.

Well, we are in the Novel Diner’s version of it. After a frustrating 40 minute delay, courtesy of a Fairways taxi, my friend Olivia and I made it to the Tea House Theatre in Vauxhall last Friday. While the majority of the populace watched the Queen and her oversized briefs plummet into the Olympic opening ceremony, we travelled back into an era of unapologetic hedonism, of opulence, decadence – to the era of F Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby.

Set up by Claire Coutinho and Mina Holland, The Novel Diner is a pop-up restaurant which brings works of fiction to life.  Past events include Proust, The Secret History, To the Lighthouse and on the 18th September the team will honour Bret Easton Ellis and transform Shoreditch House into the world of American Psycho Patrick Bateman.

Back to Vauxhall. Welcomed by the American drawl of two beautiful clip-boarded women (wearing  black-tassled mini-dresses effortlessly)  we glided into the bygone world of post-war America.  Oak tables were scattered with diamonds, cherry infused Bloody Myrtles lingered on the heavily painted lips of women and a white-jumpered, badminton-holding Tom Buchanan strided through the heaving room.

A few minutes after meandering through to the bar, we sipped on our complimentary cocktails and perused our contemporaries. Ranging from early 20s to late 60s, the crowd were an apt reincarnation of Gatsby’s parties –

The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.  

Women smiled enthusiastically, introduced themselves and vaguely listened to the introductions of others before retreating to the safety of their friendship groups. Strained smiles of young women peered territorially, like the eyes of T J Eckleburg, over the ivy laden tables, ensuring that fresh blood didn’t contaminate their Valley of Ashes.

Olivia and I were met with a frosty downward sneer as we placed ourselves in two, what we presumed to be empty, seats.

“Oh sorry, are these seats taken?”

“Well they were, but don’t worry.”

“We can move.”

“No really, it’s fine.”

So we stayed and attempted to make conversation, but, the short, clipped responses did not induce further communication. We cut our losses, refilled our flutes with Prosecco and to our relief were asked by the attractive clip-board ladies to join them on the dance floor – to learn the Charleston.

Their shoulders jiggled, their knees moved elastically and their heels chimed in perfect sync. My shoulders twitched, my knees strained and my heels bashed awkwardly. To my dismay Olivia picked it up all too easily and I resigned myself to bobbing on the spot, sadly coming to terms with my malco-ordination.  Though not able to maintain rhythm or pace, I was immersed in the music, immersed in the crowd and drunk on the 1920’s atmosphere.

Why aren’t parties more like them? The hair, the dresses, the make-up, the dancing – it’s all so elegant and fun, gone are the fears of squeezing yourself into the respiratory-restricting body-con designs and gyrating against B.O ridden, tight-tshirted men. It’s a dignified affair.

My newfound curls bounced as the final chords of the piano rang out. Supper was served.

Turkey bewitched to a dark gold was both the focal point of the sumptuous buffet and the most pleasing to the pallet – the spiced marinade cut wonderfully through the unusually moist flesh.  Hams, mustard and mayonnaise infused potatoes (Dijonnaise) and grapefruit and orange salads bordered the giant bird, and all were washed down with ample doses of camomile cocktails.

Tucking in to our culinary treats, the star of current show Gatz, Sam Shepherd, took to the microphone and gave us a taster of his performance of Nick Carraway. His voice was buttery, words melted into one another, rolling softly through the room. Hypnotic, it was only when the saxophone sounded, that I realised he’d finished.

Saturated with cocktails, we took to the floor again and tapped our heels in (relative) time with the music. Almost a century has passed since Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, but the world of Gatsby lives on, in this time warp, as fresh as ever.

Old chaps, we danced on.