The thing that nobody tells you about Duck & Waffle – well, nobody told me at least – is that the lift is made of glass. Completely see-through, 100% transparent, crystal-clear glass. Which means having to travel some forty floors, stomach-lurchingly fast, in a diaphanous death box.
I wasn’t prepared for this fact and only discovered it as I was roughly shoved into the damn thing by six squealing women (my friends), whizzing upwards in a terrifying trajectory of doom – and by then it was all too late. I stood with my face pressed up against the doors and my eyes squeezed shut until the horrific ordeal was over, ignoring the shoulder pulls and taunts of “look, Izzy, look, it’s beautiful!” while silently screaming GET YOUR GODDAMN HANDS OFF ME AND DO NOT SPEAK ONE MORE WORD UNTIL WE’RE ON SOLID GROUND.
So this was how I made my entrance to Duck & Waffle, shaking and limping thanks to jelly legs and an unrelated incident from earlier that day – something to do with a fitness DVD and overzealous burpees (damn you, Jillian Michaels).
So a few weeks ago I was randomly invited to a healthy cooking master class on Twitter by Simplyhealth, an insurance company looking to promote – you guessed it – a long life through diet and healthy living. Despite not blogging about either I thought – fuck it, I’ll go. This is the closest I’ve ever got to my food blogging dream – getting shit for free in return for writing about it. Even if I was selling myself out to the man, man. I like free shit.
I turned up on the day late, apprehensive and disheveled after sleeping in (an 11am start on a Sunday, I mean really). The class was being held at The Underground Cookery School near Old Street – no I’ve never heard of it either but it’s awfully nice. Stairs take you down to a long room, book ended by two kitchens and divided by sliding doors. Plus there was a ladies loo – which I ducked into to fill in my eyebrows because I hadn’t had time to put ANY face on. I simply MUST have eyebrows when meeting strangers I might have to impress.
I have so many reviews backed up that I’ve started to feel a little panicky. It was the boy’s birthday last month, which naturally meant at least two expensive meals out – the first of these being Flesh & Buns on Earlham Street, Covent Garden. I agonised over whether to take him here or Clove Club for weeks – but in the end the F&B menu just looked more exciting. And a little bit faddy. I’m a sucker for a fad, me. And we’re going to Clove Club for our Christmas presents to one another (aren’t we sweet) so stay posted on that front, foodies.
Firstly, Flesh & Buns is a massive big basement in Covent Garden occupying an old bar I remember drinking aged sixteen. Weird. We were seated on a long communal table in the middle of the room, on stools – which made me quite anxious. Especially considering how much food we were about to order. Gurl needs to spread out, know what I’m saying.
Right, so I’m totally drunk, sitting on the train from the arse end of nowhere home after work drinks so NATURALLY this is the best time to write a review. Tonight it’s the turn of Bouchon Fourchette on Mare Street.
I have eaten at Bouchon Fourchette twice now. Once with the boy, natch, and it was great. We had three courses, four glasses of wine and two coffees all for a very reasonable £80. It was awesome. Then I said I am totally taking my pain in the arse fucking family here for my Dad’s birthday, all five of us Gill twats who complain about everything and point our fingers at waiters and probably get all our food spat in (not me. I’ve worked in the service industry and I don’t point my finger at anyone with access to my food).
Seven of us braved the Stoke Newington side of Kingsland Road last night. I say braved, but a gaggle of seven screeching women was probably a far more terrifying prospect than anything else down the high street. Kingsland Road always scares me a little bit, despite growing up around the corner, and nearly moving off Ridley Road Market a couple of years ago (rat burger reviews ahoy!).
But every time I go back – when I’m sober enough to notice at least – it seems to have got more and more gentrified. I don’t know if this is a good thing for everyone – I’ve watched Top Boy, ‘kay. But what I do know is that there has been a damn fine spate of restaurants and bars cropping up, especially towards Stoke Newington. And that’s a good thing for me, at least.
Has anyone else noticed that Mare Street has gotten all trendy and village-y. A bit like the Stoke Newington end of Kingsland Road. I’ve spent years travelling down Mare Street onto somewhere else and have generally always considered it a right shithole. Then, Hackney Picturehouse opened a year or so ago, and it got a bit better. But you still couldn’t get a 2-4-1 Pizza Express anywhere near on an Orange Wednesday.
But more recently, there has been a spat of new restaurants opening up along this grotty thoroughfare and the truth is, they’re quite good. And then, when I was walking down to one of said restaurants from Hackney Central – The Advisory, which is opposite that massive Iceland on the corner – I noticed that, actually, Mare Street was quite nice. Hardly anyone tried to stab me. There were quite a lot of people eating in quite a lot of the restaurants – even in all of the Vietnamese’s, which usually look dead empty. The weather was nice, but not too nice, and it was a Thursday, and generally everyone looked like they were in a good mood. It was all very pleasant. I was surprised.
I booked a table at Rotary Bar and Diner within days of reading a glowing review on the Burgerac blog. Dubbed as ‘frankly, epic’ and taking the boy’s propensity for a dirty chicken burger, we popped along on a hot Saturday night last weekend.
Not fancying wine after two nights of booze on the trot, we settled for the far more sensible pint cocktails to drink – £10 a pop. I’m not entirely sure some of them could classify as an actual pint, but they were rather large. I ordered two different ones featuring gin and vodka/ rose respectively (alright I’ll have a bit of wine then). They tasted good, but they didn’t taste like booze. The boy knows a good thing when he gets it and stuck to the Hawaiian Stone Sours – Dewar’s 12, pineapple, lemon and honey. With a sharp tang that hit you in the back of the throat like a boozy gobstopper, these were just right. Have one of them. Heck, have two. Go crazy. They also served a big jug of ice water with lemon and ribbons of cucumber. I’m a fan of free fruity water. Thumbs up.
I first ventured into the Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar one hot, hot day in June with the boy – they had launched their new menu, and despite it being just twenty minutes after opening, the 50% off all month deal had lured many a penny pinching foodie and there was a two hour wait – there’s no reservations.
Deterred, we headed straight over to Psychic Burgers at Birthdays (quick review: amazing bootlaces chips, 7/10 burgers – that’s good – and kudos for the deep fried chicken addition, but it tasted baked, not fried – and no dirty chicken aficionado wants that. Great cocktails and atmos. Oh, we also saw a film after – The Purge. That was good too).
So I first started writing this review well over a month ago after my first visit to Beard To Tail. Which, incidentally, was a heavenly occasion. However, after perhaps one too many Crabbies/ white wines/ vodkas I have returned from a second far less successful meal and have the felt the very urgent need to splurge my experience all over the page. So, here we go, and do please excuse any typos/ general non-sensical rants. I’m drunk.
I’m going to start with my very first review, which I didn’t even get half-way through before abandoning for more pastures green. I’m writing a novel while holding down two jobs, so sue me. But here is the beautiful, elegant prose I first penned in all its glory (I just wrote flory. This is going to be so much harder than I first imagined):
We first heard about Fingers and Thumbs Sea Food Shack walking past The Arch Gallery on Bethnal Green Road one night. The windows were all steamy and there was a lot of clattering and drunken gobbling noises coming from inside and we thought – what is this magical place and how can we eat there. A quick Google later and we came up with a Facebook page – Fingers and Thumb Pop Up, the event: Sea Food Shack.
With only a paltry hundred or so likes it’s fair to say this is a word of mouth event. Intrigued, we booked seats for the next session and watched with salivating delight as menu posts popped up in our feed: Six Colchester Rock Oysters for £12, followed by a shellfish bucket for two with mussels, clams, razor clams, king prawns, potatoes, veg, bread and lemon rouille, cooked in a choice of regular or spicy broth.