Shad Indian

Posted by Colin

Where: 96 Tooley Street, SE1 2TH
Cost: Mains approx £9-£13 per person
Website: www.shadindian.com
Food Rating:
Service Rating:

Ruth and I are in mourning. Our grief has led to a I Live By The River first – two ratings for a restaurant, one for the food and one for the service. On Saturday night we took two friends along to Shad Indian on Tooley Street, our favourite and local Indian restaurant. We’ve eaten here many times before and its our Indian of choice when it comes to takeway. No longer.

We had originally booked for 8pm but it became clear that it would be touch and go if one of our friends would make it on time due to a delayed train. So we duly called the restaurant and asked whether it was possible to delay our table by 30 mins, to which they said it wouldn’t be a problem. We get to the restaurant and are told they don’t have a table for us because we booked for 8pm and no-one had informed them of our call. After a discussion in front of most of the restaurant, the waiter said he would go and find out what was happening. After 10 minutes we had to ask again because no-one was forthcoming. Eventually, we were shown to a table at around 8:50pm and the head waiter told us he was going to “kick the arse” of the person who’d taken our phone call.

A different waiter took our orders. The first two people ordered different things and the waiter made a sarcastic comment about how the chef “would be pleased” that he’d have to cook different dishes. I was next and I ordered the Seafood Bhuna and was asked whether I really wanted that as the chef “always overcooks it”. Having eaten there before, I knew how good the food is and so I suspect he was trying to get me to order a dish that was quicker to cook. He then left the table and we had to get him back to take the final person’s order.

When the food arrived it was, as usual, delicious. The seafood bhuna was beautifully spiced and the seafood perfectly cooked. I would recommend the food to anyone. At the end of the meal the head waiter came back and asked how things were. I calmly explained that the service had been poor for the above reasons and that it was a shame because we were regulars and the food was so good. He snapped back at us, cutting me off mid sentence and saying “if you’re going to go down that route, I’ll give you 10% off and that’s it”. I thanked him and asked him whether, in two hours, he’d managed to find out who took our original call and why we’d been messed around. He said that he’d been too busy to find out. I said we wouldn’t be coming back again.

Verdict:

Delicious food that isn’t too expensive, we’d rightly loved this place for ages. However, we just feel let down by the way we were treated from not dealing with our phone call properly to originally missing someone’s order. And I have never ever been to a restaurant before where you order a dish and the waiter discourages you from ordering it apparently because the chef is incompetent. Maybe they don’t need to look after their regulars because of their location on such a busy street, but it is such a strange way to run a business.

So we’re now on the lookout for a decent Indian restaurant in and around SE1. Got any suggestions for us?

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Zucca

Posted by Ruth

Where: Bermondsey Street, SE1
Cost: Mains approx £15 per person
Website: http://www.zuccalondon.com
Twitter: @ZuccaSam
Rating:

Walking along the foodie’s paradise that is Bermondsey street, its hard to know where to start. Behind almost every door is a tempting restaurant, gastro pub or cafe seeking to tempt the passerby. Not that you can usually just wander in – the growing reputation of the street means its increasingly hard to get a table without a reservation.

Zucca, a modern Italian restaurant, is one place well worth making an advance booking. The decor is minimalist and fresh, while the food offers some of the finest Italian cuisine around. Perfectly cooked fish sits alongside rich ragu on the ever-changing seasonal menu – not a pizza in in sight.

The highlight of our meal (just) was the starter of crisp ‘Zucca’ fritti (deep fried winter squash)- unusual and incredibly moorish. Get a bowl for the table to share and watch them disappear!

Verdict:
Delicious Italian food, friendly service and reasonable prices (for the area). It’s a great place to go for a special occasion, or just a low key lunch if you want to sample delectable treats on offer.

Feeling Gloomy

Posted by Ruth

Where: The Phoenix, Oxford Circus, W1G
When: 2nd Friday of the month
Cost: £5 entry
Website: http://feelinggloomy.com
Twitter: @FeelingGloomy
Rating:

Going to the basement of a London pub to spend the night listening to sad songs about lost love and misery might not immediately appeal, especially in this time of Christmas cheer. However, Feeling Gloomy – a monthly club night held at the Phoenix – defies its name to be one of the most enjoyable nights out in London.

doomedlargeportrait

The ‘club that brings a tear to your eye’ has recently relocated from its original home in Islington, and has lost none of the magic. Created by the infamous Leonard and Cliff, the night celebrates angst ridden indies tunes, and has established a cult following of regulars.

Far from being morose, Feeling Gloomy, is a fantastic place to dance stupidly to great music, from Belle and Sebastian and Pulp, to Wuthering Heights and Bright Eyes.

Not only is the music great, there’s also a really friendly atmosphere and complete lack of pretension.

By the end of the night you’re guaranteed to be dancing with a big group of strangers to ‘There is a light that never goes out’, singing at the top of your voice. If it’s your birthday you’ll even be treated to a chorus of ‘unhappy birthday’ and a slice of Tesco Value cake.

Verdict:
Feeling gloomy is completely unique and has a wonderfully nostalgic feel. Whether happy or sad, if you like indie music, you’re guaranteed to leave with a big smile on your smile (and slightly sore feet!).

Cutty Sark Tavern

Posted by Colin

Where: 4-6 Ballast Quay, SE10
Cost: Mains approx £10 per person
Website: www.cuttysarkse10.co.uk
Twitter: @CuttySarkPub
Rating:

I miss Summer. With the weather getting ever colder I long for the longer days when you can stroll down by the Thames without wearing countless layers. On such balmy occasions there is hardly a finer place in London to sit and watch the world go by than at the Cutty Sark Tavern slightly downstream from Greenwich.

A firm favourite of ours, we had never actually been along during the dark months of winter. So when the pub suggested via Twitter that we should come along and try their new venison pie, how could we resist?

Sunset from the Cutty Sark Tavern last year

Sunset from the Cutty Sark Tavern last year

Whilst we normally sit outside in the summer, winter brings a chance to soak in the beautiful dark wood interior.

Sitting upstairs also allows you to gaze out of the window across the water in the same way you can from the benches outside.

We decided to go for two starters to split between us: salt & pepper squid, coriander, chilli & lime along with Gressingham smoked duck, heritage beetroot, walnuts and watercress. The starters were nice enough, but didn’t set the world on fire.

However, our mains of venison pie were divine. They came out in their own individuals pots complete with lids. Lifting the lid revealed a gorgeous shepherd’s pie but with venison mince instead of lamb. The potato was creamy and smooth and the venison the perfect hearty antedote to the winter blues.

I am pretty sure there were even little bits of dark chocolate hidden amongst the filling. My only criticism was that it was a little over seasoned, with the pepper taste a tad too strong.

Verdict:

A pub for all seasons. In summer make sure you’re there to sip a cool glass of wine as the sun sets behind Canary Wharf. In the winter move inside to take advantage of the beautiful Georgian interior and their hearty selection of beautifully cooked fare.

Champor Champor – Asian Fusion in London Bridge

Posted by Ruth

Where: Weston Street, London Bridge, SE1
Cost: Mains approx £15
Website: http://www.champor-champor.com/
Twitter: @ChamporChampor
Rating:

There are definite benefits to living in the shadow of the Shard, and many of those involve food. From the famous Borough Market to the lesser known Maltby Street traders, and the many Bermondsey Street bistros, there is much to tempt the avid foodie.

However, all this has an unfortunate impact on the purse strings – so we were pleased to learn that literally doors away from our flat is a highly regarded South-East Asian fusion restaurant, with a 2 for 1 Taste Card deal.

Champor Champor (loosely translated to ‘mix and match’) serves a selection of Thai-Malay dishes, some with a Western touch. Starters range from Thai lemongrass soup to goats cheese parcels.

Classic favourites such as beef rendang and green chicken curry are nestled together on the main-course menu with more unusual offerings, such as turmeric banana curry.

Often fusion food such as this can miss the mark – with none of the cuisines receiving the necessary culinary expertise required. Pleasingly, Champor Champor avoids this issue. The food is delicious, with flavours displaying a delicate touch, which reassuringly suggests that close attention has been paid to the dishes.

The décor – colourful, exotic and inviting, with an array of South-East Asian silks and trinkets – is enjoyable and unique, if a little on the cramped side of cosy.

Verdict:

With dishes delivering real depth of flavour, and unusual combinations to sample, Champor Champor is well worth a visit – but get a Taste London card first. Without one the menu is a little too expensive – and perhaps artificially high as a result of the deal.

Great coffee with an awesome view

Posted by Colin

Where: 2 Love Tea and Coffee House, Albert Embankment near Lambeth Bridge
Rating:

It is hard to say exactly when I fell in love with London but it was certainly long before I lived here. Growing up near Heathrow airport, the Big Smoke was an obvious choice for my parents when it came to finding stuff to do over school holidays.

My Dad used to be a policeman in London and would regail us with its secrets. For me nothing could beat standing in Trafalgar Square seeing all the wonderful buildings around me. It was during these visits that I also fell in love with Big Ben and whenever I see the clock (yes I know its really the bell!) I still get excited.

I was reminded of these trips when we took a stroll along the Albert Embankment last Sunday. The Houses of Parliament looked resplendant against the crisp, cloudless winter sky and with the low sun casting its orange light on the Palace of Westminster. On this walk we came across 2 Love Tea and Coffee House – a caravan style hot drinks bar with an impressive selection of coffee and loose leaf teas.

Being such a cold day we grabbed ourselves some coffee and took advantage of the riverside seating. Can there be a better view from a coffee place in London? If you think there is, let us know!

Verdict:

The coffee was absolutely delicious – so much better than you get in the all conquering coffee chains. It was also obvious that the barrista knew exactly what he was doing.

The view is spectacular and being a little further upstream than Westminster itself ensured relative peace and quiet away from mega tourist country.

A lovely place to chill out, read a book or meet a friend for a chat.

Constellations

Where: Duke of York’s Theatre, WC2
When: 9th November 2012 (until 5th January 2013)
Website: http://www.royalcourttheatre.com
Price: £25-£49.50
Rating:

Imagine a world where the alternative outcome of every choice you’ve ever made is played out across an infinite number of universes. Where there’s a version of you out there selling more records than the Beatles, and another where you’re the Queen of England, or, more mundanely, a world where you got out of bed 10 minutes later.

That’s the premise of Constellations – a Nick Payne play, directed by Michael Longhurst, which originally opened in January to rave reviews. The play uses the concept of the multiverse – an idea borrowed from quantum physics – where every subatomic event splinters the universe, with each possibility playing out simultaneously across an infinite number of parallel universes. The same idea is used to take the audience on a poignant and witty journey through one couple’s love story. The two actors (Rafe Spall and Sally Hawkins) keep the audience enthralled as they play out the consequences of each decision made, and show the enormity of tiny choices on the course we take through life.

We attended on opening night, which is always a risk – the cast are often fresh and keen to perform, however may not be as polished as later in the season. Happily, this was not the case, and the cast delivered exceptional performances. Clever lighting and staging brought the multiverse concept to life and avoided any risk of the premise appearing gimmicky. In fact, our only criticism is a slight touch of repetition in the dialogue, though this is an unavoidable consequence of the plot.

Verdict:
If you’re still able to get a ticket, do so quickly. It is original, clever, funny and thought provoking. The cast and crew deserve all the praise currently being lavished on them. It is impossible to see the play and not reflect on our place in the universe and the impact of each choice we, and those around us, make.

Rose and Crown

Where: 199 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16
When: 03/11/12
Website: www.roseandcrownn16.co.uk
Twitter: @roseandcrown16
Rating:

Saturday afternoon saw us settle down for a spot of lunch at the Rose and Crown in Stoke Newington. Our friends were getting married in St. Mary’s Church right opposite the pub and had recommended it as a good place for a bite to eat before the ceremony – we weren’t disappointed. Owned by the same family since 1986, it is a perfect winter pub with dark oak interior, complete with real log fire. We nestled on a table next to the flames and examined the menu. Ruth went for the warm goat’s cheese salad, whilst I opted for the prawn, mussels and squid risotto. We both washed it down with a glass of white Rioja.

Considering the pub was busy with a lot of the guests from the wedding, the food came promptly and was absolutely delicious. My prawns were cooked perfectly and the risotto had just enough of a chilli kick to provide plenty of warmth without making your eyes water. Ruth’s goat’s cheese was perfectly caramelised on the outside whilst maintaining its indulgent gooey centre.

Verdict:

Top notch pub grub. The food was heavenly and we would recommend it to anyone. A real British pub, it would be the ideal place to kick back with a glass of mulled wine now that we are firmly in scarf and gloves season. Grab a board game from behind the bar and settle in for a cosy afternoon next to the log fire. The pub also has a quiz night on Tuesdays.

Yumchaa Tea Shop

Where: 45 Berwick street, Soho, W1F
When: 29/10/12
Website: www.yumchaa.com
Rating:

A planning meeting for a book some friends and I have been commissioned to write took us to Yumchaa in Soho for a day of brainstorming. Very much in keeping with modern trends, this lovely little café has sanded floorboards, exposed brickwork and its fair share of vintage looking paraphernalia. It does, however, strike the right balance and manages to stay on the right side of the overly hipster line. Throw in free wi-fi, great coffee and delicious baked treats and you have a winning combination. I can heartily recommend the supremely tasty white chocolate and raspberry muffin, whilst others partook in the fruit breads and were equally impressed.

If you are looking for a quiet place to work then upstairs can get a little busy in the afternoon as waves of workers seeking refuge from their desks descend on Yumchaa. It also attracts its fair share of trendy Soho types looking to sample their large and varied range of teas, bags of which are available to take away (you can also purchase them from the stalls they have at some of London’s biggest markets). For more tranquillity, head downstairs and sit back in one of the armchairs.

Verdict:

A great find in the hectic, bohemian part of town. Will definitely be going back with my laptop when I need strong coffee and delicious cake to fight through an episode of writer’s block. The only down side was the small problem they have with little fruit flies. Seems to be a bigger problem upstairs than downstairs though.

Muse @ O2 Arena

Where: O2 Arena, North Greenwich, SE10
When: 27/10/12 (The 2nd Law tour)
Website: www.muse.mu
Price: £55
Rating:

Frequently voted the world’s greatest live band, Muse are usually guaranteed to deliver a great performance. Their second night at the O2 definitely didn’t disappoint. The anticipation from the crowd was palpable; tickets sold out within minutes of going on sale, a testament to how popular the band have become.

The tour was timed to coincide with the release of the band’s 6th album: The Second Law. This provided an opportunity for the audience to hear some of the new material live for the first time. The crowd were incredibly enthusiastic throughout the gig, however, as expected, it was the old material that got the best reaction. Particular highlights were ‘Falling Down’ from the first album, and classic favourites New Born and Plug in Baby. Some of the new songs got a mixed reaction, having much more of a stadium rock, Queen-like slant.

Muse utilised the size of the arena to full advantage, with a large multi-platform, semi-circular stage complete with florescent piano and a descending inverted pyramid of lights. Matt Bellamy seemed in his element, strutting across the stage like a rock star peacock, determined to thrill and entertain the audience. It was clear no-one wanted the gig to end, and with such a wide back catalogue of great songs there were a few disappointed fans who missed out on hearing their favourites (including myself – no Hysteria!)

Verdict:

Muse have never been more popular than now, and certainly delivered a fantastic show. However, whilst the quality of their performance can’t be doubted, arguably musically they are slightly past their best. Despite this, they continue to be one of the most exciting live bands around; I’d urge everyone to try and get tickets for the current tour, or see them at one of the festivals next summer.