So I’ve been trying to do this thing where I burn 500 kcal a day at the moment. I know, I know – I don’t need to lose any weight, I look fabulous, whatever, but it’s all to counteract this OTHER thing I’ve been doing called the Gluten Challenge. Which is exactly what it sounds like – a challenge to eat as much goddamn gluten as you can for six weeks so I can get tested to see if I have coeliac disease. Which, as you might have guessed, is an allergy to all things gluten. My Mum has it, and the docs reckon I have IBS, so I thought it’d be a good thing to just rule it out.
My blood test is on Monday and I’m about, ooh, 110% sure I don’t have coeliac disease anymore. Just turns out that years of eating really low carb six days a week and then getting drunk on the weekend and ordering a Papa John’s can be a bit of a shock to the ol’ digestive system. Now that I’m happily stuffing entire loaves of wholemeal sourdough down my gob it probably just makes me a bit bloated.
Doesn’t mean that I’m not going to give it all up come Monday – give me an inch and I will take a mile. What began as a relatively healthy toast and soup diet has now become three Weetabix for breakfast, artisan baguettes for lunch and pasta for dinner – every night. It’s been glorious, but as with everything, I just don’t know when to stop. Which might be why I’m munching through an entire bag of Turkish flatbreads as we speak, leftover from the takeaway the boy ordered while I was out researching this review last night. Unlike me, he has self-control, and has become a bit of a fitness freak/ health addict over the last weeks – as if he’s righting the balance, or something. Which leads me nicely onto the point of this whole blog – my dinner at Stokey Bears, on Stoke Newington High Street.
Stokey Bears has been on my to go list for a while now. I kept seeing snaps of meat charred, juice-dripping brioche buns popping up all over my feed and was resolute to try one for myself. Plus, let’s be honest, I am basically a small child and I liked the illustrated bears on the menu. My friends and I were looking for somewhere to eat and failing to get a booking at the new Foxlow (that’s so old of us, isn’t it? I won’t go out on a weekend without a booking, I fucking hate queues. I’m so old) I forwarded them all one of the aforementioned burger snaps, said they took reservations, and that was the end of it.
Now what I didn’t tell them, because unless something is within a two mile radius of my house I basically don’t know where it is, is hooooow far up Stokey Stokey Bears really is. I just presume if something says Stoke Newington then it’s somewhere on that strip around Birthdays and Moustache Bar. I was wrong – and that’s where the 500 kcal story comes in. I walked there. From Bethnal Green. It was only forty five minutes but it was exhausting. But I had to do it, because I hadn’t reached my 500 kcal goal that day. I planned it. I arrived with blistered toes and panting breath, but I was on time – which is unusual. My point is, don’t bloody walk there.
So we were first seated in the ‘disco booth’ which is a garish red lit black box with wobbly school desks and even wobblier beer keg stools, but then because I wanted to take these GORGEOUS photos and because we are OLD we asked to be moved to the brightly lit front bit with the screaming children and selfie-sticked teenagers. Which was quite nice, actually – I can’t remember the last time I ate somewhere that was so trendy yet so family-friendly. See, it’s those bears on the menu.
I started off with a couple of bottles of Green Line Pale Ale, which I chugged down like water because, you know, all that walking. It was bloody delicious, although I sneakily suspect that all pale ale tastes the same. My friend had the Hawkes alcoholic ginger beer, which is the sweeter and thus inferior cousin to Crabbies, in my humble opinion. They had a banging selection of Square Root Soda which I’d suggest trying, next time.
We all ordered the same food – the Burger Bear with a side of fries and two portions of the Mac and Cheese balls to share between four. I’ll start with those first because, well, they came first. They looked burnt. Secondly, they were crazy garlicky. I heart garlic, honest – but it felt a bit like overkill alongside the grease – and believe me, there was a lot of it. Also – sharing between two is too much. I finished my friend’s half of a ball because she was too full and it literally DID.ME.IN. I felt really sick until the next gin and tonic arrived. Get one portion between four, or just avoid it altogether. The table beside us ordered the wings and onion rings, and they looked great, so get those instead.
Next the burger and chips – and I have to say, £10 for a burger and chips is bloody reasonable around London. And it was a bloody good burger, too – I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve heard much of @BurgerBearTom but never been lucky enough to try one of his burgers. And they’re worth the hype – I’d compare it to Meat Liquor, which is at the lower end of my top five (Lucky Chip – you’re still number one, buddy). This is mostly because, again, it was really fucking greasy ( but in a good way, this time) – a bit like Meat Liquor’s buns. The only downside to all that meat juice was, as Mary Berry would put it, a little bit of a soggy bottom. But the top brioche bun glistened in the artificial lighting like a pearly shell bathed in moonlight, and the meat was pink as fuck – it was gooood. Now, again, this might be because I am a bit of a fat bastard at the moment, but I thought it was a bit small. But then someone else commented it was a bit small as well. So if you’re a big bloke, I’d go for the double, or at least the signature Grizzly Bear with bacon to fill you up. The chips were good – nothing special, but a decent sized portion and crisp and thin. We did have to ask for salt which is quite unusual – usually they come drowning in the stuff. But then I am addicted to salt so maybe they were just catering for a healthier palate.
After polishing all that off (and the deadly last half of my friend’s mac and cheese ball, rookie mistake) I was too full for dessert. My friends ordered the chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream. It could have been the best brownie they’d ever tasted. If it had been hot. But it was cold. Served with cold ice cream (what other kind is there?) It just didn’t have that thermal dichotomy which would have taken it to the next level. The other comment they made was that it tasted like a Betty Crocker mix – but apparently this was a good thing, and nobody thinks it actually was a Betty Crocker mix. I don’t eat such things of course, but I did have a mouthful and it was bloody delicious – gooey as fuck, with big crunchy corners of chocolate. If only it had been warm – bad bear!
Afterwards, we popped next door to Original Sin, a basement cocktail bar from the same peeps behind Happiness Forgets In Hoxton (one of my FAVE bars ever). I couldn’t smell a thing but my friends said it smelt a bit like toilets. Nevertheless, it was pleasantly busy, but not so much we couldn’t get a table (and without a booking!). It had a decent cocktail list and reasonably priced wine and spirits. Pretty good for people watching – we were fascinated by a bare backed woman slipping one shoulder out of her dress all night, like she was in some swanky hotel in Manhattan and not the arse end of Stoke Newington.
Overall verdict? Reasonably priced, great tasting, greasy grub – but I wouldn’t make the trek unless I was already in the area. I hear Burger Tom is opening up in Old Street this June, and I’ll definitely be back to sample the infamous bacon jam and the hot wings. If you really can’t wait until then – by all means, pay Stokey Bears a visit. Just remember – don’t make my mistake. Don’t walk.
Stokey Bear Links: