Monday, 29 July 2013

BBQ Whisky Beer at the Wargrave Arms

Sam Daffin started BBQ Whisky Beer at a boozer on Shepherd's Bush's famous Goldhawk Rd as a pop up restaurant, and after looking for a more central location, has now moved to the Wargrave Arms in the Marylebone/Edgware Road area. There's been a great deal of buzz about the place, so when I was asked if I would review it, I was only too pleased.

The Wargrave Arms is a lovely pub. How it has escaped the modernisation and blandification that has blighted many pubs, I don't know. It has bags of character; stained glass, tiffany lampshades, panelling, bar stools and high tables. Well done to brewery Youngs for not subjecting it to the sterile makeovers of the 1990s and Noughties.


Aiming to deliver some of the most famous American Barbeque favourites, like chicken wings, roasted ribs, burgers, pulled pork, Mac Cheese, barbeque pork, roast chicken etc, the team are passionate about the food they serve. Just chat to any of them, and they've all tried the entire menu, know how each dish is made and what it contains in unbelievable detail. They want to recommend their favourite dish, or work out what's the thing you'll love the best. And their genuine joy when you tell them you are enjoying your food just can't be faked. 

Sam is something of a barbeque and outdoor cooking expert, having learnt his craft over many years. His stories about cooking on the beach, using wood fired sand pits with smoking tunnels to channel heat and smoke made me realise that whilst fun, this type of cooking takes a lot of practice and skill. Many people find home cooked barbequed food a little lacklustre; burnt on the outside, raw on the inside. Little wonder, when we only dig out the barbeque on a rare sunny weekend. We just don't have the nous! 

Before coming, I had been advised that several dishes were stand out, such as the beef burger, pulled pork burger, wings, and both the pork and beef ribs. I had wanted to try everything, but being a rather diminutive woman, this was not going to be possible. The eyes are willing, but the stomach too small! So it was a question of prioritisation. Him Indoors came out with me to offer his meat-loving company and meat eating chops. We did our best to partake of the menu... 

We began with the starters.... 

Hot wings, Blue cheese dip and celery, Small £6 (if you want large, it is £10)

The wings arrived in a zinc bucket, piled high. We could hardly believe how many little winglets there were in the bucket! The BBQ Whisky Beer team take each whole chicken wing and cut them into 2 parts, but unlike many other establishments, count the two parts of the original whole wing as a wing (if that makes sense!). So 6 wings means 12 luscious bits of chickeny goodness. Goodness, even KFC are guilty of the Great Chicken Wing Robbery! So, what did we think of the wings? They were glazed generously with a lovely roasted texture on the outside, but soft and moist on the inside. The sauce was... incendiary! We needed the blue cheese mayonnaise dip to quell the satisfyingly tasty but powerful heat. A must for chilli lovers.

Fryer trash, Pulled pork, BBQ sauce £5

I really wanted to try the pulled pork, having heard much about it. It is lovingly cooked for 24 hours! But I knew that if I were to have the pulled pork burger, I would end up getting filled up on the bap and accoutrements within, leaving me less space for the meaty treats to follow. So Him Indoors and I thought that the Fryer Trash, pulled pork on top of triple cooked chips, was the best way of getting a portion of pulled pork without any drama. When the portion arrived, we nearly fell off our seats! It was massive! Heaps of pork on top of a pretty substantial portion of fries. The pork was cooked low and slow, and was tender as can be. The chips were crunchy and crispy. It's not the typical English way to do chips, but I enjoyed the combination of the crunch with the moist pork. The BBQ sauce brought the whole thing together in a wonderfully naughty way. All this was just £5 and was more than enough for 2 to share as a single starter. 

I should tell you that BBQ Whisky Beer produce all of their own sauces, glazes, dips and marinades. This is impressive, not only from the point of view of the effort required, but they are also so well matched to the food overall. A real labour of love. 

The starters were very big, very tasty... but we were beginning to fill up by now... how were we going to manage a main course each? 

One thing Him Indoors and I hate more than anything else, is food waste. It is insulting to the cooks, it shows disregard for the ingredients themselves and with many in the world unable to enjoy a ready supply of food it's just plain insensitive. So ordering two main courses would have resulted in lots of food going uneaten. We were not going to do it. But we SOOOOO wanted to try the award winning ribs. What were we going to do?

We decided to (somewhat sheepishly) ask Sam if he could do us a modestly sized portion of the Jacob's ladder trimmed award winning beef ribs. So this picture is NOT what you would get if you order the £12 portion. 



The ribs are smoked and then grilled. Somehow they are lightly blackened with a crust on the outside, but retain tenderness and moisture (and hence flavour) on the inside. It's ribtastic! We understood completely why they had won the ‘Great British Rib Champion 2013′ award at Ribstock 2013. It was a pleasure to eat this tasty, flavoursome finger food. And we didn't need to care about the mess as the staff had provided us with a big box of wet wipes to help us keep our hands clean!

I then got tempted with puddings. Very full, I was still curious. Part of me didn't want to order a pudding and not eat it, but part of me was not wanting the experience to end. Sam found it easy to tempt me, so in the end, I elected for the Brownie....

Chocolate Brownie, Dulche de leche ice cream £5

Indulgent, chocolaty and full of home made charm, this is a lovely end to a lovely meal. The ice cream was a lovely foil to the richness of the brownie. 

I should give a mention to the drinks, given that this is BBQ Whisky Beer. There are many types of Whisky - 2 pages, in fact. They are sourced from around the Whisky making world. You will find varieties from the USA, Ireland, Japan, England and Scotland. I am not an aficionado so I can't comment further suffice to say that if the same care is taken on the food, then the chances are the Whisky list is excellent.

In relation to beers, since The Wargrave Arms is a Young's pub, they are only able to serve Young's beers. 

The wine selection is small but select. I did not have any difficulty in finding something very pleasant and drinkable.

Informal and unfussy food like this appears easy to make. The proliferation of "posh" burger and "classy" fried chicken joints shows that many restaurateurs think this kind of food can garner them a big profit margin while riding on the coat tails of this current food trend. But I would say that unless you really know what you're doing, steer well away. Nobody wants dry, burnt ribs that taste like your colleague Dave's last BBQ experiment. This food might be not be complicated, but it certainly isn't simple.

BBQ Whisky Beer will continue its residency at The Wargrave for the forseeable future. However, I am sure they have ambitions to open their own establishment. Keep your eyes and ears open!

Snigdha and Him Indoors dined at BBQ Whisky Beer as guests.

The Wargrave Arms, 40-42 Brendon St, London W1H 5HE

BBQ Whisky Beer on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Inamostagram Competition Prizegiving

Back in April, I went to a Sushi and Sake Masterclass with Chef Jon at Inamo (St James) restaurant, Regent Street. I had a brilliant time learning from an expert about making sushi, and then learnt a lot more about Sake afterwards... (including my discovery that Sake isn't just about being enjoyed hot, it is also very pleasant when had chilled!). I wrote about my experience here:
One of Inamo's Sushi experts at work

At the same time, Inamo was starting its "Inamostagram" competition. Many of us love Instagram, the sharing and photo manipulation app, and one of the most popular types of photo on their website happens to be food pictures. (I had thought it would be kittens, but hey!) Inamo wanted to inspire people to greater creativity by inviting them to take pictures of their food, applying any effects desired (or none at all) and posting them on Instagram. The most popular (as voted on by other members of Instagram and on Facebook) would win £500 to spend at Inamo! A generous prize indeed!
The restaurant is now the Inamostagram Gallery

As expected, punters got clicking! The variety of pictures was amazing; from the food, to the interactive tables, decor and people having fun. There were surreal pictures, straight pictures, arty pictures, and everything in between.
The shortlisted photos

I was invited to the prizegiving earlier this week, and it was a great evening out. 
Interactive tables at Inamo

Check out what your food looks like before you order
We were looked after extremely well with Sake Mojitos all round!
Sake Mojito

The Sake Mojito was a new discovery for me. Lighter and less alcoholic than a regular Mojito, it was very pleasant sipping on a hot Summer night. The Sake is a gentle flavour in amongst the fresh muddled mint leaves, lime juice, sugar syrup and soda water.... definitely one  to recreate at home! The Sake used was Akashi-Tai Hanjozo Sake. 

We were treated to some varied and scrumptious canapes....
Beautiful bite-sized sushi
Prawn tempura
Grab those prawns before they're gone!
Glazed Chicken Satay skewers
It was great to catch up with top street food and restaurant blogger, Wilkes. He's a good laugh, good company and a mine of information on the London restaurant scene! You can read his blog here:
Snigdha and Wilkes

Eventually, it came to the time for the winner (from a shortlist of 12) to be announced..... Noel Hunwick, the Director of Inamo announced the winner. Here he is speaking to us all about how successful the competition was:

The winner was Enrique Arrivabene with this superb photo, which I love for its quirky humour, composition and... sushi!

Here is Alex Wales with his work, another of my favourites. I love the somewhat surreal sheep which has strayed into Alex's Sake Martini!

The shortlisted photos are currently on display at Inamo, so do check them out should you visit!

Snigdha would like to thank Inamo for inviting her to the prizegiving evening.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Brockwell Lido Restaurant

Food blogging is a great hobby to have. You cook at home, share what you do and by some wonderful miracle, others follow, and you pass on your knowledge. Similarly, you go out and you can share your experiences and tips with people via reviews. Meeting other food and drink loving people is another wonderful element. I’ve met some completely amazing people through twitter and through events.

Fiona Maclean of London Unattached and Tash of Food I Fancy are food bloggers I met at the African cooking class I was invited to (writeup here: I’ve been in touch ever since and they are now people I can count as friends. I have learnt so much from their blogs, but also from talking to them, and contacting them online. You'll find their blogs here  and here 

Fiona very kindly invited us to come and have a meal with her at Brockwell Lido on account of us being South Londoners. We were pleased to have the opportunity to get together and have a good catch up, and also to try the restaurant which won the award for Best Park Restaurant in the Time Out Eating and Drinking Awards 2011.

We booked with more regard to our diaries and free time more than anything else. So we were surprised and delighted to find on the day in question, that we had picked a gloriously sunny and balmy evening for our meal. The makings of a perfect evening!

We began with cocktails…

I chose the Rangoon at £7.50, described as “Pimms’ No1 Cup and Martini Rosso shaken over ice then finished with Luscombe Ginger Beer and garnished with Berries”. It had a lovely gingery tang which I really enjoyed, and was long and refreshing, as a Summer cocktail should be!

The Elderflower Sherbert (£7.25) featured “Sipsmith London Gin, Elderflower cordial and fresh Lemon Juice topped with soda water and poured over ice”. Normally, I give gin a bit of a wide berth as I find its taste a little bitter for my liking. This cocktail, however, was gentle and refreshing.

The Aperol Spritz here at the Lido is £7.75. This drink is swiftly becoming an iconic Summer cocktail across Europe. The Lido’s mix is described as “Aperol, Prosecco and Soda with a garnish of fresh Orange” and the balance of bitter, dry and sweet achieved is very pleasing indeed. It is little wonder this drink is sweeping across the continent and coming to a bar near you this season!

On the starters front, Tash chose the Chorizo, squid, chickpea, chilli and rocket salad at £6.25. The colours on the plate looked vibrant and delightful. I simply had to have a try! The squid was perfectly (just) cooked, and combined well with paprika spice of the chorizo, peppery herbiness of the rocket and al dente texture of the chickpeas. A very lovely starter indeed.

I elected for the Half a pint of Atlantic prawns with roast garlic aioli and lemon £5.75, and thoroughly enjoyed pulling the heads and tails from the fresh and succulent prawns. The roast garlic aioli added a sweet and tempered garlic flavour. I was taken back to student days when I used to visit East Sussex pubs and eateries in my student days with pints of prawns by the sea or on the Downs. 

Fiona decided upon the Small charcuterie plate with pickled vegetables & sourdough bread which is normally £6.95, featuring Salchichon and iberico chorizo from Leon, Spain; English ‘Nduja and wild mushroom & truffles saucisson from Moon’s Green, Kent. 

Her portion was without question the best value starter, with oodles of meat and a good amount of freshly baked bread. There was more than enough to allow us to have a decent sampling. My personal favourite item was the English saucission, with its truffle aroma trumping the rest. But in all honesty everything on this plate was tasty, and wonderful for al fresco eating. It was like being on Las Ramblas in Barcelona on a sunny warm night. 

We then moved onto the main courses.

I went for the Cardamom confit free range duck leg, saffron pilaf, goats curd, english asparagus and preserved lemon for £16.

The duck was still moist and tender on the inside, unlike some confits which can be much too dry. The pilaf was delicately flavoured with a hint of saffron pitched just perfectly. It’s an ingredient one can easily overdo out of a misguided notion that using more of an expensive ingredient must mean a better result. The asparagus and preserved lemon were interesting accompaniments which went together well with the whole dish. I enjoyed this course very much, and slightly to the envy of my companions.

Fiona chose the Dry aged, rare breed beef burger in a brioche bun with triple cooked chips, £10, as she was fascinated by how the aging and provenance of the beef would change the taste and texture of the burger. Fiona had the burger done rare, which my picture does not show, as the outside was seared. She asked for extra Emmenthal on top. This was a superb burger, large without being ridiculous, good meat to bread ratio, tender and without too much fat or grease. A burger to give any of the posh burger chains a run for their money!

Tash was feeling like something meaty so she selected the 35 day, dry aged longhorn sirloin steak on the bone with triple cooked chips, watercress, red wine and bay sauce £18.50. I don’t think I have ever seen such a generous portion of steak! Tash asked for it to be done medium, and personally I would have called this medium rare or even rare. Never mind, it was delicious. Easy to cut, high quality meat which was full of deep, full glorious flavour. 35 days of aging has truly made a difference!

Strawberry and frangipan tart with clotted cream £5.50

This was Tash’s pudding, and she chose well. Sometimes I am sceptical about Frangipan as it can be bitter, as the almonds used can sometimes add bitterness. This was luscious and without any bitter taste at all. The strawberries, through being cooked had developed a deep sweetness.

Vanilla roast peach with maple syrup and mascarpone £5.50

Roast peaches are a pudding many of us who aren’t good at baked puddings make when we have guests. But it is all too easy to cook them for too long, and then you have… well, mush! These peaches were just cooked and complimented nicely by the soft, creamy mascarpone and maple syrup. 

Home made ice creams, made at the Lido, with a cantucci biscuit £5.50

This was my choice. I passed on the biscuit. I have recently rediscovered a love of ice cream after twenty years. This was three scoops of ice cream in three different flavours, all made with natural flavourings in the Lido restaurant. The vanilla was fragrant and full of delicate vanilla flavours. The strawberry was full of strawberry juice and tiny pieces of strawberry, making it full flavoured and extremely enjoyable. However, the best was the pistachio, which was very generously studded with bits of pistachio kernel and was blended perfectly. This is a flavour which isn’t always made well, either too creamy, or too sweet, and often the expensive nuts are skimped on. This was far from it. Delicious. I could have licked the bowl!

We ate here as guests in order to review the restaurant. However, I would have gladly come here for a meal I’d pay for. The atmosphere was wonderful outside, with other diners happily chatting and enjoying their food, and the swimmers enjoying a dip on a hot sunny day. It was enjoyable watching the swimmers make their lengths as we ate, really making us feel Summery. The inside of the restaurant would be a lovely space to eat during less pleasant weather, so a good evening out need not depend on the weather.
The service we had was exemplary, and this was despite the fact that our waitress did not know until we were practically leaving that we were review diners. Now that is precisely the service you want; done well through professionalism and dedication. 

I would definitely eat here again, and would recommend it. Get here whilst the sun is still shining!

Fiona, Tash and I ate at Brockwell Lido as guests.

Brockwell Lido, Dulwich Rd, London, SE24 0PA

020 7737 8183

The Lido Cafe on Urbanspoon


Fiona has recently been thinking a lot about the social element involved in blogging. As a result, she has come up with the idea of "Fab First Friday Linky and Blog Love". A simple system to connect bloggers, we each choose a favourite post from July, add a link back to Fiona's post explaining Fab First Friday, and we try to connect with each other's blogs and posts.

I chose this particular post because it was written about a very wonderful evening I had spending time with two like minded and lovely people who also happen to be bloggers too!

If you want to find out more about Fab First Friday, have a look here:

London-Unattached Favourite Blogs