Sunday, August 17, 2014

Joe’s Southern Kitchen (Covent Garden)

Now that I have Tastecard, I have my pick of restaurants at which I can eat at for a decent price, so thought I’d christen my darling Tastecard at Joe’s Southern Kitchen & Bar.

Very generously sized in an old warehouse-style building and boasting some mouth-watering dishes, it brings the spirit of the Deep South into central London. The soft shell crab starters were delicious, and converted a crab-phobiac like me, although the chilli cup and taco starter was somewhat mediocre, and definitely was riding more on the 'fun' quotient of making your own tacos than on its nutritional or taste value.

The main menu boasted dishes that ranged from the straightforward (southern chicken, etc) to things that sounded altogether more exotic, or just curious. For example, Joe’s Prison Plate was presented as just that - a tray like something you’d expect to see in Orange is the New Black (a show I have become addicted to, just so you know, brilliant) filled with beans, coleslaw, rice, bread, but best of all, a healthy portion of pulled pork, which was unbelievably succulent. I think it must be the sauce they cook their food in, because every meat dish I had at JSK left me wanting more. The chicken itself looks nothing special, like something you’d expect to get from KFC, but don’t judge a book by its cover, because that, too, tasted wonderful.

With a Tastecard, a meal here works out cheaper than a visit to Nando’s, an institution which I’ve always found disappointingly overrated. So what are you waiting for? Get down there! The restaurant itself might be shabby-chic, but the food is simply divine.

Grade: A-

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Lunches I've had at work this week.

Breaded seabass and baby potatoes. 8/10. £3.30

Pasta in tomato sauce and chicken. 7/10 (pasta was dreamy but chicken a little undercooked). £3.30

Veggie burger and chips. 8/10. £3.00

Bill’s (Holborn) and Jackson + Rye (Soho)

Last Sunday I went for brunch at Bill’s, and the Sunday before that, at Jackson + Rye, so it makes sense to talk about these two places together.

Jackson + Rye is brunch spot with heavy American influences in its decor, particularly that of the New York variety, all diner-style booths and a jukebox-type soundtrack blaring in the past. It boasts a fantastic range of egg dishes, of which I went with the salmon option, as well as offering macaroni cheese as a side dish, something that is a complete novelty to us Brits, who are used to having it as a free-standing meal. Seeing as I was there, I thought it would be rude not to, and indeed, was not disappointed. I'm of the belief that the more cheese, the better, and this side dish was all but drenched in it, and high quality cheese, too.

I went with my MSc lot, three of whom had the eggs with avocado, which was very well received by them. On my end, I adored the salmon, and welcomed it as a healthy alternative to the English fry-ups I usually have for brunch on a Sunday. The macaroni and cheese was wonderfully moreish, unashamedly dripping with carbs and made even better when I added a generous helping of salt. For dessert, I had continued with cheese, devouring a cheesecake of sorts, which came with its own berry sauce. It was artfully decorated and went down a treat, if being a little wanting on the portion-for-price ratio.

Overall, Jackson + Rye operated like an upmarket, slightly more high end version of TGI Friday’s. The few downsides were that we went at a very busy time, and thus, found it difficult to get the waiters’ attention, as well as the fact that they helped themselves to a 12.5% optional tip. Now, it says optional, so we didn’t pay it, but then, when we left, the waiters called us back in because apparently our bill didn’t add up. On a second glance, they realised that it did - we had paid for our food, just declined to pay the 12.5% gratuity because we didn’t feel they earned it. It was all a bit awkward, but I’m firmly of the belief that you should let people choose whether or not they want to tip you. That this place gave themselves a tip, and then passive aggressively chastised us for not paying it, means I am reluctant to recommend it effusively, despite how yummy the food was.

Bill’s boasted an altogether different palate of food: European dishes, as well as the hearty full English, and it was this that I had for brunch last Sunday. I loved it. Like my macaroni cheese at J+R, it was dripping full of carbs, and all the better for it, and the streaky bacon was done exactly how I like it (I’m picky when it comes to bacon). To balance out the salt intake, I had some sugar intake in the form of my first ice cream soda float and it was revelatory! Such was my noobishness when it came to this drink, that I didn’t clock that I was supposed to drink it as soon as the straw went in, meaning a substantial amount of it fell onto the table, but the waiters were switched on and instantly cleaned up for me, no reproach at all.

The upside down cheesecake dessert, whilst expertly packaged in a dinky clear jar and lid, had its proportions of textures a little jumbled up - I would have fancied more cream, and less biscuit, but it seems churlish to let that mar what was otherwise a thoroughly recommendable brunch spot, which will now be forever remembered fondly as the place where I had my first ice cream float.

Jackson + Rye: B-
Bill’s: A-

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Lunches I've had at work this week.

Rice cakes and tomato sauce. £3. 6/10.

Pasta bolognese. £3.30. 9/10.

Thursday roast. £3.30. 9/10

Falafel wrap and salad. £3. 6/10

Dishes containing meat definitely trumped the vegetarian dishes this week!

Friday, July 04, 2014

Second drunk leg shot in a row.

Someone needs to have a talk with my narcissism...

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Brief thoughts on two karaoke places in London (The Old School Yard, Bloomsbury Bowling Lane).

The Old School Yard
I bought the package for this on Groupon for £30, advertised at original value of £270 (although you have to always take the original value advertised on Groupon with a pinch of salt, they'll do anything to make a sale).

I went with my lot from work and three of my friends from my Masters, making eight of us in total. The place was relatively easy to find, just a quick walk from Borough tube station. The room we were given was a very generous size, so everyone had place to sit down, dump their bags, with there still being plenty of space left over. Included in the deal was a pizza, which was of mediocre quality but definitely edible, as well as a pitcher of punch which I enjoyed a lot, but was an acquired tasted because one of the boys didn't. Our session (6pm) fell at Happy Hour, so cocktails were reasonably priced as well, though I opted for two Becks for a fiver.

So far, so promising. However, my main aim of going to karaoke is to sing, and that is where this place fell horrendously short. Its song list was WOEFUL. There is no polite way of describing an outdated song set that didn't have any One Direction, Lana del Rey or Kanye West, and, not only that, doesn't allow you to search for the songs on the system. Instead, you have to manually sift through a dog-eared booklet and hit and hope when you key the song code in, as, for many of them, the numbers presented did not correspond to the right song on the system.

Add in the fact that the men working at The Old School Yard were extremely surly and unhelpful, and had to be prompted FOUR times to bring the pizza and punch. I think they were hoping that if they left it until after our time was up, I'd forget. Not on my watch, sweetheart. Just like not on my watch I'd visit a karaoke joint as dire as this without letting the rest of the world know what they were getting themselves in for.

Grade: D

Bloomsbury Bowling Lane
I went here for my 24th birthday, back in April. The price was a lot steeper: it was a Good Friday and we went during the day, thus at off-peaks hours. This time it was for three hours rather than two, but with no online deal, the price came to a whopping £150 (albeit for 15 of us). Given the money paid, the size of the room was pretty miserly: about half of the size of the room in the place reviewed above, which definitely led to some cramping given the large party.

Where this place won hands down, though, was in its song selection. The song list it had online was cool enough, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover on the day they had modern songs on the system that weren't on the online song list! Songs such as Timber, Wrecking Ball, and pretty much every One Direction song I could dream of singing. Me and my brother had a wicked time rocking out to What Makes You Beautiful (we also did Umbrella, with him as Rihanna and me as Jay-Z. Obviously. #swag). Being there for three hours, I also did Something Kinda Ooh (my all-time go-to karaoke song, again, not offered at the place above), You Sexy Thing, Goldigger, as well as rapped Homecoming by Kanye West rather awesomely.

Unfortunately, there were other shortcomings to this place in addition to its steep price. The quality of the karaoke equipment was not great, and I had to ask to have the batteries on one of the microphones switched no less than three times. They were, however, very obliging when we asked for more glasses (I'd sneaked in a cheeky bottle of wine, ehehe). Overall, I had a good time here, but for the high prices we were paying, they really should have done more to make sure everything went swimmingly.

Grade: B-

 As I love karaoke, I enjoyed my experiences at both experiences. However, I'm not a fan of getting swindled, and I'm certain I can have a good time singing craply without breaking the bank. The search for London's best karaoke joint continues.