Muriel’s Kitchen, Old Compton Street, Soho

A busy Saturday night in the West End. Rain imminent. You’ve just left a comedy show at the Soho theatre. There’s a lot of choice. As the Minister of Food & Drink, I am lucky enough to have staff who go off hunting for somewhere to eat whilst I am enjoying my comedic entertainment.

That was the case tonight, Chris & Caroline were on the hunt whilst we were all enjoying ourselves with Rob Newman. Their research led them to Muriel’s Kitchen, in the famous Old Compton Street. This is part of a small chain of three restaurants, in Richmond, South Kensington and here in Soho.

On a busy Saturday night, they were just waiting for a party of 6 to turn up, to fill up some of their large tables, and we sailed past several couples who were waiting for a table ūüôā

An unexpected bonus to start – a bottle of St Peters Dark G-Free. A very interesting dark and gluten free ale, and certainly a surprise to find it in Central London. They have several St Peters bottles on the menu, but not much else of interest when it comes to beer.

However, there is a powerful sting in the tail. This retails at ¬£2.50 a bottle. This almost certainly means that they buy it for less than this, because trade establishments generally don’t pay retail prices. We all understand that restaurants put a mark up on alcohol to help cover their costs. But to charge ¬£7 for it is utterly criminal. I’m no restaurant trade expert, but that just seems way too high. This meant that everyone stuck to one drink, since to have more would be just to waste money.

Mrs MOFAD had a Wyld Wood cider. This had problems of its own. It was not chilled, and was only offered with ice. This is not how we drink cider in this country. It should be chilled, and never served with ice, unlike some of the weird coloured stuff that is seen in pubs nowadays.

So, on to the food. As you’ve probably already worked out, Mrs MOFAD loves curry. So Mrs MOFAD had curry, a chicken and peach curry to be precise. This was a gently spiced dish, with nice rice, poppadoms, mango chutney and cucumber raita. Although there was a lack of plate action, and too much plant pot action.

I too was suffering from lack of plate anxiety. Pulled pork sliders (mini burger buns filled with pulled pork) with chips and slaw. Chips in a flower pot. As I’ve noted several times before, this makes it hard to apply salt and vinegar, and in this case, the delicious Tiptree BBQ sauce that was on offer (I love the stuff).

It was very tasty (a touch on the small side for the portion) but good value for money (unlike the beer). Service was quick and efficient, and with a smile. But without a plate.

If you’re looking for somewhere to eat in Soho, this is not a bad option. Just don’t get too much of a taste for the beer!

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Soho Theatre Bar, Dean Street

A quick one this, as we popped in for a pre-show drink. If I lived in London, I think I’d be at the Soho Theatre every night. Look at who is on over the next few months. John Robins, Bridget Christie, Simon Munnery, Frank Skinner, David Baddiel, Tom Allen, Paul Sinha, Sarah Kendall, Pappy’s, James Acaster and more.

This is what your London weighting would all be blown on, comedy shows every night. Tonight, we were here to see Rob Newman’s latest show, “The Brain Show”. Yes, the first comedian¬†to sell out Wembley Arena (alongside double act partner David Baddiel, who is also here next month) is currently playing some smaller venues, following on from his recent Radio 4 series. As late 80s/early 90s children, we had to be here, along with Hazel & Matt.

After a packed day of tourist stuff, we didn’t have a lot of time to spare tonight, so we hopped in to the box office to pick up our tickets, and then to the bar for a drink. And here’s a pleasant surprise, a full range of Adnams beers. As you might remember, we have been to quite a few Adnams establishments during our trip to Suffolk. Always interesting to find one outside of their heartland, and particularly in the heart of the West End.

So, a pint of Blackshore Stout tonight, which was something that we didn’t come across last year. A nice gentle stout to accompany an evening of comedy. A quick peek at the menu reveals that they have eleven pizzas on the menu, a burger, a club sandwich and a few salads. Nice, simple, pre-show dining if you have time for that.

The Brain Show was a great hour of comedy from Rob Newman, and the Soho Theatre is a great venue. Look forward to returning soon.

Friend at Hand, Herbrand Street, Bloomsbury

A busy Friday night in Central London. As already noted, we hadn’t really accounted for all those post-work drinkers when we were wandering around earlier on. We had popped our heads in here about an hour previously, and it was absolutely packed. Upon our return, we managed to find ourselves a table, the last one available.

I’ve been to this pub before. It was before MOFAD records began, before Untappd records began and I can’t find a check in on Facebook. So I don’t know when it was exactly. Let’s say 2012. Anyway, I remembered that it was ok, so we settled ourselves in for dinner at this cosy little pub, just a very short stroll from Russell Square tube station.

Lots of food to choose from on the menu, various sharing platters that are popular in so many pubs nowadays, a selection of burgers (no pulled pork option though!), fish’n’chips, a vegetarian version (halloumi replacing the fish) as well as pub classics like steak, hunters chicken, sausage & mash, and several pies.

It was the “Big Ben burger” for me, a¬†6oz beef burger, topped with crispy bacon, Cheddar cheese, a fried free range egg and crispy onion rings, served with a¬†burger sauce (BBQ sauce). Looking at this, it appears my onion rings were missing! I was too hungry to notice this on the night, obviously! It was a very tasty (and messy, which is a good sign) burger.

Mrs MOFAD had wanted hunters chicken, but it had been hunted to extinction tonight, so opted for second choice, chicken & chorizo pie, with chips, fresh seasonal vegetables and a jug of gravy.

Mrs MOFAD accompanied this with some Aspall cider (served in the lovely Aspall half pint “wine glass”). Mine was washed down with some Portobello VPA, which stands for very pale ale. It was not a very pale ale, but was sweet and pleasant enough. Quite pricey though and not value for money.

The final members of our party had arrived at this point, so as Chris & Caroline were tucking into dinner, we ordered some more drinks. This time the Taylor Walker 1730 Special Pale Ale. What a big name to live up to. And what an utter disappointment. My Untappd review simply says “meh”. It was just so “nothing”. A shame really, but I’d rather explore new beers than stick with the usual.

The Friend at Hand is definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in the area. They could do with sorting out the toilets though, they are a bit scabby.

Callaghans Bar, Coram Street, Bloomsbury

Friday night in Central London. When you don’t work there, you forget how busy places get from anything from about 4pm onwards, as offices and other workplaces empty, and their occupants spill out into nearby pubs and bars, to have a few drinks and let their hair down, without having to think of the impending 2 hour commute home for a few more hours.

What this means is that you can spend quite a while wandering around and looking for somewhere where you can get a sit so you can sit down and eat and have a drink, and catch up with the friends that you have travelled down to spend the weekend with.

Some times this means that you can end up somewhere that you weren’t intending to.¬†Callaghans Bar is situated on the ground floor of the Holiday Inn in Bloomsbury, which is where we were staying. We had spent around 20 minutes wandering around the three nearby pubs, but seating was lacking, so we ended up here.

This was not my first choice, as I’ve been in here before when staying at the hotel. The beer selection is poor, as they have just a couple of vaguely interesting German beers in the fridge, and nothing decent on tap. Contrast this with the pub across the road, where they have around 8 decent ales on tap and more bottles and cans available. And ciders as well.

So my first drink of our London weekend ended up being this Paulaner Hefe-Weisbier, an unsubtle and slightly fruity number, which went down well.

As we couldn’t get in anywhere for proper food just yet, we opted for some nachos, because the menu was pretty limited ¬†– a few burgers and hot dogs, some pasta, fish’n’chips and a steak.

The nachos were very tasty – good salsa and guacamole, it’s just a shame that everything else about the place is so uninteresting. It’s basically a sports bar type place, burgers and lagers and not much more. Having been in it during a football match, it’s not exactly a relaxing atmosphere.

Only for use in emergencies, like this one!

Musical interlude – David Bowie, Glenn Frey and Otis Clay

This blog is all about food and drink, but I am a music lover too. And 2016 has seen its share of deaths in the music industry already. This is not going to be one of those long, rambling outpourings that you see everywhere in the wake of such events. If that’s your thing, then fine, but it’s not for me. Instead I’m just going to share a few songs with you.

First, “Heroes” by David Bowie, who passed away on 10th January 2016. The perfect song for Olympic highlights compilations (this or Gold by Spandau Ballet are the go to tunes). In fact, Team GB entered the stadium to this during the London 2012 opening ceremonies.

Next we come to Take It Easy by Eagles. They had disbanded acrimoniously by the time I went to primary school, but returned in 1994 for Hell Freezes Over, a live recording for MTV, which featured four new songs. The title is a reference to a quote from Don Henley, who said in 1980 that they would perform together again “when hell freezes over”. At the start of the performance, Glenn Frey, who passed away on January 18th 2016, explained “for the record, we never broke up, we just took a 14 year vacation”.

“Take it Easy” was written by Glenn Frey and his neighbour Jackson Browne. In Winslow, Arizona (mentioned in the first line of the song), there is a statue depicting a guitarist standing on the corner.

TakeItEasy_WinslowAZ

And finally, on to Otis Clay, who passed away on January the 8th 2016. You’ve probably never heard of him, despite 16 albums. However, you’ve probably heard of a song called “The Only Way Is Up”, written by George Jackson and Johnny Henderson. Otis Clay released this song in 1980, but you probably know it as one of the biggest hits of 1998, released by Yazz & The Plastic Population. Here is the original recording.

China Dragon, Nuneaton

Only the third Chinese takeaway review on here. I think that might be a statistical anomaly of some kind, but it’s a true reflection of the last year, we just haven’t had that many.

This evening we were in Nuneaton, measuring up for a forthcoming project, and fancied a nice minimal effort dinner, so a takeaway was the obvious choice. Regular MOFAD supplier, companion and in-law Jo recommended China Dragon, so we popped in to order our tea.

The first thing to note is that parking is a bit tricky in the immediate vicinity. There is some handy parking just across the road, but that’s only for residents. A quick zoom in on the sat-nav found the side road that leads up to China Dragon, and we managed to squeeze in at the side of the road.

My test for any Chinese is their Kung Po chicken, so that was my order tonight, along with some house special fried rice. It was very tasty, with a good amount of chilli. No pineapple in this one, and a few more cashew nuts would have added some more crunch. China Dragon also favour the “sweet’n’sour battered chicken” approach first seen last year, and it worked well again here. Very tasty stuff.

Nothing too strong to accompany, as we had to drive home. This Eternal Monk Session IPA had all the hops but without the alcohol hit of some of the biggest IPAs (I’m looking at you Jaipur X!)

A good little takeaway, and very popular – waiting times for deliveries were exceeding 90 minutes whilst we were waiting.

The Nag’s Head, Stapleton

A cold and crisp day, winter is probably arriving at last. A hard frost this morning, and plenty of ice about. We headed over to the village of Stapleton for a short stroll, which was improved by the frozen mud, although there was a rather squelchy section towards the end.

We had planned our walk carefully, so that we would be in the pub in time for lunch. Another perfectly executed plan. The Nag’s Head is a classic village pub,¬†part of the community in Stapleton – they sponsor the local cricket team (and make¬†their teas for home games) and also run local events to raise money for the community.¬†Oh, and they also have a mini zoo out in the beer garden.

A friendly and welcoming pub, dogs are welcome in the bar area at the front, and there’s a restaurant section to the rear. The full menu is served all day, and a good lunch menu is on offer, lots of sandwiches/baguettes to choose from including:-

Ham and Mustard
Tuna Mayonnaise
Cheese and Pickle
Sausage and Onion
Prawns in Marie Rose sauce
Bacon and Brie with red onion relish
Fish Fingers
Turkey and Stuffing

All served with a small side salad and chips. There’s soup of the day, a chicken and bacon salad and jacket potatoes with the usual fillings.

A burger menu is also available, with a choice of beef, chicken, pulled pork or
spicy 5 bean burger.

Mr Predictable went for the pulled pork burger. This was the real deal, not just a normal burger topped with a spoonful of sticky, sweet BBQ porky stuff. Proper big lumps of pork, in an interesting marinade. Definitely not your run of the mill stuff.

I still haven’t worked out the “interesting serving device” though.

Mrs MOFAD had a prawn sandwich and some chips, also very tasty. No beer today as we were off to clamber around in a loft and balance precariously on things. Not something that can be combined with beer.

A great little village pub, and one that deserves a visit.