Tredwells & Beautiful – The Carole King Story ( Happy Birthday Mum )

Tredwells & Beautiful – The Carole King Story: A Birthday To Remember.
A while back, sitting in my mums back garden it dawned on me that this year my mum would hit the grand old age of 70. I’m probably going to be a little biased when I say she doesn’t look it but that’s not really the point. 70!.. SEVEN – OH. It just didn’t seem possible. My mum couldn’t be 70, my mum was always supposed to be 40, 22 – 25 years ahead of me. I would then remain comfortably in my mental state of 18. It’s frightening knowing that one day she might not be here. It’s even more worrying that she may not know just how much she is loved by all of us, family and friends.
With lots going on this year my sister SB was the first to come up with some suggestions on what to do to celebrate. Some options realistic/or otherwise included:
A long weekend in either Cornwall, on the Isle Of Wight, or at Potters in Norfolk. 

Afternoon Tea ( or lunch ) on the Orient Express.

There were countless things to be fair, all of which I’m sure our La -Dee -Da would have enjoyed but the bottom line was, somewhere along the line these things had to be paid for. After two or three secret gatherings the trio of younger Rollos, that’s my sister, brother and moi, came to the conclusion that on a number of occasions our mother had mentioned the Carole King musical Beautiful. I don’t mind a sing – a – long, but I had no idea who Carole King was I admit. We did however all agree that it was affordable and something we could all chip in to pay for, maybe we’d take her out for dinner first. If we could keep it hush hush then even better.
The musical itself is based at the Aldwych Theatre on The Strand in central London. After numerous calls we ended up gathering a total of 19 hearty souls including the birthday girl. Getting the tickets was surprisingly easy. Even more pleasing was the deal the theatre runs for groups of 10 or more. Premium seats at a very reasonable rate. Tickets were purchased, pretty much all together and stage one was complete. The golden oldie had no eye deer.
So far so good. Then came a secondary issue. I’ve touched on this before in past blogs, that people can be extremely fussy when it comes to what they choose to eat. I have no issues with that at all, but it did make it essential to find the right place for food. Somewhere exceptional, memorable, but that gets the basics right most importantly. Having been lucky enough in the last few months to eat up in London a few times I did have a couple of ideas. One place that we had visited was called Tredwells. We went there on a Sunday and I had heard beforehand tremendous musings about the Tredwells Roast dinner. 
I have to say it lived up to the hype. A sharing dish for two, it was a knockout. I do love a roast dinner, and the Tredwells roast was about as good as it gets! After discussing this with my siblings it was decided that We couldn’t go too far wrong choosing Mr. Wareings restaurant in Covent Garden. I mean who doesn’t enjoy a traditional British Sunday roast!
My point of contact at the restaurant was Stefan. Admittedly a little cheekily I asked if it was possible to do the roast dinners for our group on my mums birthday, which fell on a bank holiday Monday. I was a bit concerned that this may have been a no – no but thankfully they agreed to my request. Credit where it’s due Stefan certainly earns his money. He was incredibly helpful with everything. In fact all of the staff I spoke to were extremely friendly and accommodating.
On the day of our mothers birthday our group met up “secret squirrel” at my brothers. The old girls face was a picture as she arrived with my sister. 15 of us jumped on the minibus, and took off towards the big smoke. Mum was still oblivious to where she was going. We arrived at Covent Garden after about an hour. During the trip we had gone through an infinite amount of versions of “happy birthday to you”. Firstly it was sung to the birthday girl. Then it was my niece who got the HBTY treatment. I should add it was also her birthday, RB being a sprightly 22. Then it was the turn of my mums best friend Lucie. It was to be her birthday the following week. My other niece, a 2nd RB, got the HBTY choir chorus. My turn next, middle of June. Then my 3rd niece, end of May. 
By the time we got to Lucies hubby, whose birthday is in September or thereabouts ( I think ), we were on the edge of the west end. Hopping off the bus into the hustle and bustle of Cov Garden my mother had not a scooby. We made our way over to The Roundhouse pub, a 50 yard walk from Tredwells. We were to meet the last 4 of the group here. My mums sister, accompanied by a niece and her daughter. Last but not least was JD. A nephew and his good lady. It was quite funny, him sitting there, 5 yards from my mum, her totally oblivious to him even being there. It wasn’t expected but her face as she realised was a joyful picture.
Finally it was time to make our way over to the restaurant. For a high profile event ( family wise ), I was relatively ( boom boom ) relaxed. So many things could go wrong. For a start the cake my sister had ordered hadn’t turned up. Thankfully though that little troublesome moment was as bad as it got. The cake made its appearance later. We marched in, and up the stairs onto the mezzanine floor. The table was well spaced out with plenty of room in a very pleasant setting. I had taken an executive decision ( I will admit probably for the first time in my life ) and had chosen starters to share. Give people too much choice and it could all go wonky, decide for them and it’s all they can have. It gets eaten or it doesn’t. 
I chose, ( or we ) chose to go with a platter to share of Pork Sliders, Chorizo Jam, Charred Bread and Glazed Chicken Wings. I’m guessing that the starters were gleefully accepted with a large thumbs up judging by the empty boards that the food was served on. I did have a little dabble myself. I can very much understand the reasoning for putting the individual items together. They go together like … ( I was going to try and sing a line from the Grease film but I can only remember Chang Chang and wop bam boo ), so instead I will suggest that as single plates the food was lovely, but as a dish served together… It was like being hit by Mike Tyson… A knockout , although an altogether far more pleasant experience.
 I couldn’t stop eating the wings. As for the Chorizo Jam, big tick in the starter box. If you do go to Tredwells and have a starter, try the Sliders. If the Wings are your auntie, then these bad boys are definitely your favourite uncle. I believe on the whole the Chicken Wings were the favourite component. The meat just fell off and you could sit there eating them all day. Well you could if you didn’t have a main course, dessert and musical to get through.
I’ve waxed lyrical in a previous blog about about just how good this roast dinner is as a main course. Simply put its the best I’ve eaten barring her indoors and my own mother, ( I have to put that as GB will read this at some point ). There isn’t too much food, but there is more than enough. The spuds are about as good as they come, and the veg is varied and cooked to perfection. Minor issue was Tredwells didn’t have extra Elmers, but did try to rectify it by offering up some mash. It’s no substitute though. As its a sharing dish you do have interaction, and it does get people talking. It’s not just a roast dinner believe me, it’s the perfect roast dinner. The beef is immense, the chicken magnificent. My cousin JD isn’t the smallest of humans, but after gnawing on the wings he struggled to get through the beef. The most triumphant achievement though, the birthday girl was happy!
The desserts were varied. Some had the luxurious Chocolate Brownie. Extremely rich, possibly a fraction too much. They couldn’t finish it. I had the Gin’n’Tonic Cheesecake with a few others, ( people that is, not desserts ). You could definitely taste the G & T in it. I’m not sure if it was more like a Panna cotta. Luckily I’m happy with either so I was sorted. The big winner though dessert wise was the Warm Ginger Cake. The smell was unbelievable and the taste was better. A pudding straight out of the top drawer. GB had the WGC so now and again pretending to be mingling I’d dive down towards where my lovely was sitting just to sample this little bowl of delightfulness. Thumbs up for the Coconut Mousse as well. Both peeps that chose this were very happy bunnies.
On the day we were looked after by Kendall. What a great ambassador for Mr. Wareing. Kendall made sure all our needs were met, was conscious of what was going on at all times and made sure the whole experience went exactly how we’d hoped. We got a bit of the birthday cake after another HBTY song for both our mum and then for RB. I should say as well that all the staff were a credit. Polite, attentive, knowledgeable and nothing was unattainable, except of course for my extra Elmers. For those not in the know, Elmer Fudds = spuds.
As a special occasion it’s hard to see how many could match the Tredwells experience. Based on value for money, service and food it has to be right up there in the highest echelons of great restaurants based in London.
We paid up and strolled out into the sunshine for a slow walk to The Strand. The Aldwych Theatre is a grand old theatre. It’s very well placed and has a great atmosphere inside. As I said at the top I had no idea who Carole King was. I do now!… What a songwriter. Did you know CK wrote “The Locomotion”, “You Make Me Feel ( like a natural woman )”, “You’ve Got A Friend” and “Up On The Roof”…. Hah, well now you do my friends. 
Kate Brayben who plays Carole has a superb voice. Excellently supported by the rest of the cast its a magnificent musical. I did love The Drifters and odd cameo of various famous singers of the era including Neil Sedaka ( all played by the same character ). The lighthearted rivalry between the duo of Carole King/Gerry Goffin and Cynthia Weil/Barry Mann is portrayed in a creative and humorous way. It’s funny but with some poignant moments. I loved it. I think our mum did too. It also proves that dreams can come true if you have the self belief. The fact that Carole didn’t necessarily believe herself to be good enough to sing her own songs is remarkable when you look at her career.
A couple of things to note. The song Beautiful is off of the album Tapestry. The album Tapestry was No.1 for 15 consecutive weeks stateside and was in the US billboard charts top 100 for an incredible 6 years!

In this particular era a lot of upcoming singer/songwriters were all living in the same block of apartments vying for a chance to have their song accepted by the agent who rented out their abodes. Quite often it seems they were asked to come up with a song for a particular group and then met up on the Friday to see whose song was best suited to the act in question.
Next time you have a Sunday free, book a roast at Tredwells and then go see Beautiful – The Carole King Story. It’s an awesome way to spend the day!
PS. Happy birthday Mum… Love you loads x


A Social View – Berners Tavern ( Take 2 + Made in Dagenham )

A Social View – Berners Tavern ( New Edition ) + “Made in Dagenham”

Firstly an apology. If you didn’t bother to read my last blog I don’t blame you. It was miles too long. I’ve come to the conclusion that the last blog was longer than a giant Anaconda with its head stuck in a Hosepipe. To be frank, ( and I’ve always wanted to be frank, whether it be Stapleton, Turner or Sidebottom ), it was longer, and in places more pointless than Boris Johnson’s hair. So this is the all new, shorter ( in theory ) and brighter more sparkly version of The Social Life. We also have a new name temporarily, at least until I can think of something more apt. By we I mean me.

I am good at only two things unfortunately. Falling down the stairs is the first. Like Uncle Albert fell down manholes in Only Fools and Horses, I seem to have discovered the same talent with stairs. Being that it’s always the same set, our stairs indoors, you’d think after three or four tumbles I would learn from previous mistakes. Sadly this is not the case. Mind elsewhere this morning, book in hand, I completely ignored the slippery step, slippery sole rule of the house, ( the rule is a basic : be careful ), and plummeted down the stairs face first at a rapid pace. Thankfully nothing is broken.

The second thing I’m good at, although not as good as GB, is turning a thirty second story into a thirty minute story. Great if you are making a witty speech with amusing anecdotes, not so great if you are writing an amateur blog that can sometimes test people’s patience. The worst that can happen though is nobody reads it and I live a lonely single blog life. Hey ho. If this removes me from the doldrums of general life and keeps my spirits up then surely it’s worth persevering with.

We have been married 13 years. That’s GB and myself. Not sure how she has suffered it but clearly, now and again the good outweighs the bad. That’s only half the story though ( literally ). In total we have been together for twenty five Christmases ( twenty four years ). I thought it was worth celebrating. The weekend of our wedding anniversary, I planned something for every evening.

Friday : Typing Room – Bethnal Green. Outrageously good food. Excellent front of house. See previous blog. The long one!
Saturday : Made in Dagenham at the Adelphi Theatre and dinner at Berners Tavern.
Sunday : lunch at Tredwells followed by Matt Goss at the Palladium.

Admittedly the Palladium show was a coincidence and just incredible luck on my part as GB loved Bros and still swoons over Mr. Goss. It must be pointed out that she isn’t alone. This will be covered in my next instalment. For now let’s kick on and start as we arrived for our 2 night stay at The London EDITION Hotel. It also housed our restaurant for the evening so no troublesome long winded journey home.

If I am ever fortunate enough to be able to afford a lifestyle of pure unadulterated luxury and an abode the size of Rutland, there is only one combo with whom I would like to design the interior and fluidity. Step forward Ian Schrager and Philippe Starck. Some places you just cannot tire of looking at, or being in. The lobby in London EDITION is one of them. From the luxurious green sofas to the giant mirrored egg hanging from the ceiling as you enter the building, the whole modelling of the hotel comes together beautifully. I love the lobby.

Running slightly behind schedule we checked in. Flew through the quick and easy process and within minutes we were up in our room. I’ve never stayed in a hotel of this calibre before so I’ve nothing really to compare it with. No cancel that. Many moons ago for reasons that have taken a leave of absence for now, we stayed in St.Martins Lane Hotel. Also designed/owned by The dynamic duo Starck/Schrager. A different type of room, it was a garden room, but uber stylish all the same. The EDITION room was E shaped if that makes sense. The central part of the E being the opening. Bathroom with huge shower etc.. On the right, a bed to get lost in on the opposite side. That’s not an exaggeration either. I turned over during the night and still her indoors was nowhere to be found. Comfiest beds in the world go to The Scotsman in Edinburgh. This runs it a close 2nd.

A quick spray of deodorant, a couple of bits hung up and travel bags tucked away, we were off. Like a pair of greyhounds after the hare, we still needed food of some form and a little tipple of something to say hello to London. Walking along Wardour Street we decided on quick eating to heal the hunger. Pret-A-Manger was the order of the day. Toasted sandwiches scoffed and hot chocolates in hand, we were back on the road. As we hit The Strand the Adelphi was to our left. Plenty of time for light refreshment. A glass of Sauvignon Blanc for my fair lady ( boom boom ), and a bottle of Peroni for yours truly. We finished the first and ordered a second to take in with us. I was surprised how far back we were when we took our seats, but it was fine. No problems, you could see everything and it’s not that big a distance back to front.

I’ve never seen the film but I can thoroughly recommend Made in Dagenham the musical. It’s a true story about life in the late 1960’s, at the Fords car (or Dagenham Dustbin to give its alternate name) factory in… Yep you’ve got it, Dagenham, Essex. Focusing on the fight for women’s equality, ( equal pay, equal rights ), the lead character Rita O’Grady is played by Gemma Arterton ( Quantum of Solace, Tamara Drewe ).Gemma plays the part down to a tee. It has all the right ingredients that a musical needs. Catchy tunes, funny, poignant moments and a strong storyline that the majority can relate to. A very well thought out cast makes this a real good family show with laughs a bagful, ( beware strong language ). Special mention goes to a standout role as Beryl played by Sophie Stanton.

Drinks finished, musical finished, we headed back to the EDITION. Time for a freshen up, change, and a quick cocktail before dinner. I’m in the shower first even though we both know it’ll take GB twice as long to get ready. I’m watching the football results, you can tell its a celebratory weekend, everything is going so well….look at the scores:

Chelsea 2 – Bradford 4. Didn’t see that coming.
Man City 0 – Boro 2. A second shock.
Spurs 1 – Leicester City 2.

Happy days. Three rivals out. All to teams they were expected to beat.

GB poured us both a cheeky drink and finally hopped into the shower. I heard a noise. Sounded like a knock but distant. I ignored it. Another room. Then it was there again. It WAS our door. I opened it , ( not my finest moment, tee shirt and towel ), and there is a young chap there with a chocolate mousse courtesy of the hotel and a card congratulating us. What a lovely touch. Thinking quickly, I shut the bathroom door first thankfully, before allowing him in. The mousse looked like it would lay on you for days. It was actually delicate and light. Lovely stuff. A perfect pre – dinner graze. Very welcome and extremely thoughtful.

We polished off our complimentary plate, dressed up, ( the wife looked particularly lovely ), and headed downstairs for swift cocktails in the lobby… Have I mentioned the lobby?… Ah the lobby.

Dill or no Dill.. Not a question, nor the game show hosted by the diminutive bearded Noel Edmonds, no it was The wife’s cocktail. Mead Myself & Aye for lil ‘ol’ me. I won’t bore you with all the full details of what’s in each, remember I’m trying to keep it shorter. DOND is a Tanqueray Gin based drink. My little newt of a liquid was 10yr old Somerset Cider Brandy. I do love a Del Boy umbrella in my drink. I had to make do with the worlds smallest clothes peg. If anyone has a hamster and after washing their shirts you have trouble hanging their clobber up go visit Berners Tavern. A few drinks later you’ll have clothes pegs galore for the tiny rodents romper suits.

We were shown to our table. A nice space on the left. In my original blog about Berners Tavern I mused about the room. I stand by my statement back then. It is in my opinion THE finest dining room in London. It just looks magnificent. I love all the pictures, personal fave a large one on the back wall showing an old blue room. Not sure what makes it special but I’m loving it loving it loving it. A combination of French decor with grand central station chandeliers. High ceilings. If this room were a woman it would be on every catwalk. It allows for a superb natural atmosphere. Have I mentioned the lobby?

Our starters came up relatively quick. Not a bad thing. The wine was already in place. A Chilean red. GB choosing Langoustines from the Orkneys with Mayo, Fennel and Dill. I went for the Crispy Pigs Head, Foie Gras and Black Pudding ( plus bits n bobs ). I’ve never been a fan of seafood but GB dived seafood/dived, oh the comic in me is just too much ), straight into her plate of pink perfectery. My CPH was a real delight. You could taste every flavour and it was a great starter. Thumbs up for the Langoustines. Succulent Quali-TEE!

Sometimes I find there is only so much you can write about a main course. Most of my descriptions of food are your bog standard lovely, amazing, delicious etc.etc.. So let me tell you about the mains at Berners. GB suggested that we choose the Chateaubriand with Mac’N’Cheese. It is a sharing dish. Both a romantic and worthy choice given the celebration. We selected a few extra side dishes and the waiter started looking at us like we had a bison sitting with us at the table. He quite rightly recommended that with a salad we wait until the food arrived before ordering more.

When our food did appear we could see his point. Indulgent indulgent indulgent. Do you see what I’m trying to get at??…the aroma and presentation were magical. I wish I knew the words to explain HOW GOOD this course was. To use the words of sports commentator Martin Tyler, ” We are running out of superlatives for how good that was “. Knock me down with a 10lb sledgehammer and christen me Bob, it was that theasauretically amuse Bouche. The fact that there was enough food on the table to feed a small army just made it more flamboyant.

Please note when I say a small army I don’t mean the armed forces of San Marino, although if the General of this small republic has a family, say, wife, two kids, and in-laws I reckon they’d be enough food to share. So if you are per chance reading this piece Generali, get yourself ( plus fam ) to Berners!

The beef was honestly just cooked to perfection. The MNC was as good as it looked. There was more truffle than you could shake a stick at. I know the restaurant recently won a best in London award from someone. Based on this course it is so deserving of that accolade. As a business model it’s not that intelligent, we had no room for dessert. I don’t see many folk eating that and wanting afters. As food for a celebratory meal, it was knock out.

I also bumped into my favourite restaurant manager Chris Bakowski. We had a brief chat and he came back to sort out a small issue with our bill. If only all restaurants had a chap like CB running the floor, eating out would be so much more fun. Sadly I don’t recall the name of the chap wearing glasses who served us but I take my hat off to him for looking after us. Attentive, polite, knowledgeable and extremely helpful.

As above, there was no room for anything else. I don’t think having a bottle of champagne helped matters. Not a normal thing but 25 Christmases is a huge achievement. Bill paid, doggy-bag in hand ( YES the main course was that big, if only we had a dog ), we left more than happy. A fantastic restaurant, with excellent front of house staff. I can only recommend people get their backsides down to the EDITION for a sleepover and a butchers at the lobby, did I … Oh I think I have. While there get yourselves into Berners. If there’s four of you have the chateaubriand!

Footnote. Gabriela and Maria in reservations were exceptionally helpful. EDITION choose their staff well. It may not be the cheapest hotel in the world but it’s cutting edge luxury and has a grey pool table. That’s good enough for me.

My next blog may be slightly different!.. But don’t get too excited, it’ll still be me writing it. It’s called a day at the Palace! ( actually it’s the one after that ). Hope you enjoy!

The Social Life – War Horse & Heddon Street Kitchen

The Social Life – “War Horse On Stage & Heddon Street Kitchen”

I have to be honest and say that if you’d told me I’d be sitting in a theatre, laughing, cheering and applauding three blokes running around controlling an eight foot high puppet horse, I would have told you that you were having a giraffe. I mean how ridiculous would it look ?

Let me tell you now, and you lot really need to listen and take heed. Go and see the theatre production of ” War Horse “. Or buy someone you love a ticket for Carrimbo and then buy yourself a ticket and use it as an excuse to go with them.

“Well you can’t go on your own!”… See where I’m coming from. It’s currently showing at the New London Theatre in Covent Garden.

I was a little apprehensive. I mean it’s one of those “lovely” films. Not necessarily a laugh-a-minute story, but most definitely a feel good film. Or at least I thought it was. Would they ruin it? For those of you that haven’t seen the film OR play. Here is a very quick run -down ( and I do mean quick )…please note if you haven’t seen WarHorse the next 4/5 lines do tell the story on an extremely basic level. So ( like on the old 10 o’clock news ), if you don’t want to know what happens, look away NOW!

this is very much a SPOILER ALERT:

Boy gets horse
Boy trains horse
Horse goes to war
Boy goes to war
They both meet up years later in a bar to discuss old times and to compare scars.

I’m joking. Horses can’t talk. Or can they?

I had booked a Saturday matinee show months before. It was our unofficial anniversary having been together 24 happy years , ( all together now Aaahh ). Believe it or not In those 24 years together we have not had a single argument. Well, I didn’t like to interrupt her once she starts talking.

We had pretty good seats. 10 rows back, to the side at the end. You could clearly see everything that was going on though, so no complaints there. A friend had suggested tissues were required but I’ve no idea why. I didn’t even have a cold, although that little line has come back to bite me on the ‘arris.

Everyone was settled as a young lady walked out on stage. She was smiling. The audience hushed, the lights went down and we were off. I don’t mean we all left. It was showtime!.. There is a very clever use of props in quite a sparsely clad stage. I did think to myself after 2 minutes ” what the bloody hell have I done? ” as 3 young members of the cast started running around the stage with a horse puppet straight out of the Bill and Ben era. The equivalent to having Legs made out of pool queues. Each member played their own role. One controlled the head. One the front legs and one the hind legs. As much as it was clever I wasn’t looking forward to another 90 minutes of it.

Twenty minutes in though and my general demeanour had completely changed. I was transfixed. What these people do without giving everything away is just immense. To quote my better looking and more intelligent other half….

“They give the horses soul”.. And by that she doesn’t imply they stick a Walkman on the horses head and play him James Brown to calm him down. It is difficult to explain just how clever it is. It’s like no show I’ve seen before. It’s so far off the beaten track that it’s in another country. Everything these people do, from the goose on a stick to the birds in the sky ( on a stick ), it’s so real. Animation taken to another level. Of course you have to embrace it a little but it’s made easy by such a clever use of noise, movement and of course not forgetting the acting itself. Jack Loxton is outstanding playing the part of Albert Narracott. I didn’t remember it being based in the West Country but apparently it was.

It’s a little unfair of me to single out individuals as each member plays a significant part in what is a fantastic theatre production. There are laughs a plenty. The odd squeamish moment although children over 12 I think would be fine and a few sad parts, hankies at the ready! The star of the show however is undoubtedly the horses, or at least the people that control them. The strength and guile these guys and girls have is an amazing attribute to behold. I fail to see how anyone would not enjoy watching this.

It’s when they brought the real horses out I was shocked!
( I’m joking )

Seeing the show the weekend after Armistice Day made it maybe slightly more prominent.

We left Drury Lane feeling we’d both seen a real gem of a show. It was a relatively pleasant evening and we strolled ( at first ) cheerfully in what we thought was the correct direction towards our selected food destination, stopping off at a couple of boutiques ( shops, I mean shops ), along the way. Upon leaving the last shop, very much like our last time out, we got a bit muddled up. Lost is maybe too strong but confused would be fair. In searching out particular shops we had lost our sense of direction ( again ). More hurriedly now, our pins took us along through Leicester Square, along Coventry Street and onto a chaotic Picadilly Circus leading to Regent Street. I love Londom, ( remove that M on the end, stick an N there please.. ), Sometimes however the number of people walking past, or straight through you is moronic.

We fought our way up Towards Heddon Street where we were eating. Checking my watch I realised we were now 5 minutes into our reservation time. Fashionably late as always. It may have taken a little longer than planned, mainly because I was busy watching an oriental gentleman kicking 10 shades out of the back of a London bus. I’ve no idea why the chap in question felt it necessary to take this action but it was highly amusing!

Anniversaries for Geraldine and I normally means dinner ( or lunch ) at a Gordon Ramsay eatery. Any excuse, funds permitting to eat somewhere nice. Heddon Street Kitchen is the latest of Rammo’s restaurants. Opening the week before, not without controversy, HSK is tucked away in the corner of Regent Street’s food quarter. Apparently fully booked for its opening night over 100 bookings failed to show, leading to Mr. Ramsay suggesting that ( allegedly ) a rival had sabotaged the big night by making phoney reservations. This had left staff deflated and frustrated, if you believe the newspapers and Mr. Ramsays version of events on Jonathan Ross.

Well the following Saturday I have to say there were no doom and gloom merchants on service as far as I could see. Greeted at the door by a lovely young lady at the reception we were immediately shown to our table. It wasn’t full to the rafters but I thought it reasonably busy. It was only 18:30 and judging by the number of people still out shopping, there was plenty of scope for more custom to come through the doors. I do question the positioning of the restaurant itself. Positioned opposite Strawberry Moons at the end as it is I would guess passing customers may choose to dine elsewhere not even realising HSK is there. Just my opinion.

Seated, we ordered cocktails, if you’ve read previous blogs you’ll know it’s now tradition. Jellybean chose the “Lady Regent”, which featured Gin, Ruinquinquin Peach ( I haven’t a scooby ), Elderflower, Lemon and Mint. She was suitably impressed. I had the “Grey Goose Le Fizz” which was very nice. It’s not the best drink to ever pass these hallowed lips but it was refreshing and hit enough high notes for me to be happy enough. Starters were taken, Beef Brisket for the boss and Tamarind Chicken wings for moi.

The food arrived along with a nice bottle of English Bacchus Reserve from Chapel Down based in Kent. Maybe it’s me getting patriotic as I get older but I do find myself searching for English wine, before I bite the bullet and order a New Zealand White these days. In truth the Bacchus is a fantastic glass ( or 3 ) of wine. So easy to drink. I remember thinking Hock was quite sophisticated. Geraldine and I would leave our tip at the beefeater and head straight to the off licence for Germany’s finest. Much better than that Piesporter rubbish we would argue as we bought our 2 litre bottle.

As I said the starters arrived and for a kitchen still finding it’s feet, my wings were a comfortable winner. Granted a tad messy, though that could have been down to the pup eating them as opposed to the supplier. Napkins were in abundance just in case of any accidents. Fortunately I kept my food mostly in or around my trap. Her indoors thoroughly enjoyed the Brisket. Presentation was excellent as was the taste and texture. Her only point of complaint, a touch more piccalilli wouldn’t have gone amiss. Head Chef Maria Tampakis had certainly mastered the art of a chicken wing. I’ve had a similar dish at Bread Street, under Chef Tampakis. I can promise you they aren’t like your average Pizza Hut side dish ( thank god ).

Our plates were removed and within a minute or so the main course was in front of us. This is great if you are in a hurry. If you aren’t as we most definitely wasn’t, it felt like we were being rushed. Understandable if the restaurant was heaving, but it had more than enough empty tables to warrant us a bigger space between courses. The starters were not small either, making the almost instant arrival of the mains a bit uncomfortable. I can only put this down to a new restaurant learning curve. Benefit of the doubt.

My dish was the Meat and Potato Pie. Just my non chefy observation but I think serving it on a skillet isn’t ideal. It feels like your main and side are two completely separate dishes. You are offered a third plate to devise your own main plate but I’m not sure it works. I can’t argue with a top chef over how food should look or be served but as a customer it could be re-thought. As for the taste, it was a cross between nice and lovely. Better than homely, but not ball out of the park stuff. Fractionally bland I found it. Definite improvements could be made on that one. Maybe I’m just spoilt and expect too much.

Mrs. R had chosen the Pork Belly dish. When ordering she had decided on a side dish of mash. It’s the Irish in her. Loves a spud. She chose me after all ( joke ). The chap serving us explained that the plate came served on a sweet potty toe mash. The look on her face when it arrived was very much one of disappointment. It was very much a purée ( or as the good lady put it, a posh spoon drag) as opposed to a mash. Along with some Brussels/Lardons and Carrots, Geraldine’s meal comprised of two huge ( emphasis on the huge ) slices of Pork and a bit of veg. Bit of a let down.

The Pork was like two house bricks. In fairness it was lovely but it was literally ( lots of ) meat and two veg. The crackling on top however was out of this world. As there was too much for one I offered my services and while cackling took crackling. It was divine. My favourite crackling of the year! I should also mention that the vegetables were delicious. I mean they were cooked and flavoured to perfection. You’d think that’s a given at this level but not necessarily.

Between our mains and dessert to give ourselves a breather of sorts we had a chat with one of the managers on the floor. A true gent. He probably spent the best part of 10-15 minutes with us. We just generally discussed his own career, the trials of restaurant management, how we booked, why we were there, our thoughts on the evening , both good and bad etc etc..

He also gave us a sample of Branca Menta. What an after dinner sup this baby is. An Italian version of Creme De Menthe. If what I have read is true then it was first produced in the 1960’s. Inspired by the opera singer Maria Callas. Before each performance the star would supposedly drink a glass of Fernet Branca with a touch of mint syrup. This eventually led to the production of Branca Menta. Less alcohol, more mint, more sugar.

When our desserts did arrive, along with a small “happy anniversary” plate, we were not disappointed. GR had the Bread n Butter Pudding with cinnamon. It was incredible. Both wifey and I tasted it. Her opinion was that the base was pain au chocolat. Anyone help us out on this? Either way it was the best of the three courses. I went for the Vanilla Cheesecake. Fully agree with wifey on this. The desserts were stand outs of the evening. The mulled berry compote added an extra dimension. I could have eaten it twice over ( if I had the room ). The special plate was like a brownie. Extremely rich. Luxurious chocolate. Lovely with my Irish coffee.

Sadly like everything, all good things must come to an end. Finishing the smoothest of Irish coffees we paid the bill. ( £156 ). That’s probably the cheapest I’ve ever paid at a Rammo restaurant. A win double. I like his new “kitchens”. Long may it continue. Overall, a cracking evening. Great company ( as always ), and very enjoyable food. Minor issues need ironing out but otherwise a winner.

Atmosphere : 8/10

Service : 7.5/10 ( hurried but early doors, top Manager though )

Food: 7.9/10 ( no idea how I came to a .9 but 7.5 wasn’t enough, and 8 was just too much. It had only been open for a week so maybe I’m being harsh but I have to mark it how I see it or what’s the point )

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. If anyone has!..
Next time up Merchants Tavern.