The Social Life – Typing Room – A Typically Social Affair
East London, the home of the 2012 London Olympics ( if you discount sailing, rowing and BMX’ing, ( but that’s not a sport, that’s just riding a push bike like a nutter ). The Olympics brought the eyes of the world to London, even more so to the East End of the capital. Stratford or Stratford City as it was renamed for a month became the focal point for all things athletic. The full focus of over a billion people was on the good old diamond geezers of the East End. East London is also famous for it’s Bow Bells, Cockney rhyming slang and it’s pie mash and liquor. Those were the golden, older days though.
New to the party in relative terms, by way of the Eastenders theme tune is the high rise banking district of Canary Wharf and it’s own small train line The DLR. that’s Docklands light railway for those not acquainted with this part of town. Plus of course that big twirly red helter skelter type thing in the centre of Stratford City. East London, Right now ( end of January 2015 ), is the trendiest place to open up any form of bar or restaurant. You could open a shoe box in Mile End at the minute and several media groups would be sniffing around. So it’s no real surprise then that a place tipped to be one of THE successes of 2015 is flexing its muscles and is living up to the hype/buzz that surrounds both the restaurant and its chef, or chefs if you include its backer.
This particular part of London where my more intelligent and far better half was born and raised, ( ok she was born in Barking, Essex, but let’s not fall out over it ), was once home to a nightclub with a name so bad you couldn’t make it up. A regular haunt of GB in her younger party loving days. GB and her elder sister would meet up with friends for a night of White Lightning and Thunderbirds. She would go there in her Gibson Blackwatch shoes, double-denimed up and dance the night away to SL2 – ‘On a Ragga Tip’ and Orange Lemon ‘Dreams of Santa Anna’, the latter being a legendary track in my book. Why oh why oh why though, would you at any point in your life wish to visit a nightclub called…… Wait for it…… ‘FLAPPERS’!. I met her there on two occasions. For me that was plenty. Give me Dingwalls or The Electric Ballroom in Camden any day.
I remember being sat at work when the announcement was made that Great Britain had won the right to stage the 20:12 Olympics, or the after 8’s as I was happy to reference it by. As it was formally disclosed that our proud nation had beaten Paris, and the people behind the scenes that conducted the UK bid were groping each other insanely after a job well done, I too felt elated. That sense of pride and achievement, everyone was involved, from Prince Will to Becks to Greg Wallace. Ok maybe not Greg Wallace, unless he made some ‘Deep , Meaty, Earthy, beetroot salad sandwiches’ for the staff, fully immersed in trying to overcome our friends from across the channel.
My elation of course lasted all of an hour. I’ve explained in previous blogs that my cup not dwelleth over. I’m not and never will be a “it’ll all work out in the end” , mentally positive thinker. I tend to be extremely negative,to the point where If I entered a negativity competition I’m sure I’d finish runner – up. My main issues were ‘We have no infrastructure, what about the traffic, how much will it cost us, the taxpayers’…
I will most certainly hold my hands up and admit that I regret not buying any tickets for the London Olympics. Hindsight though is a wonderful thing. As is a slush puppy. I used to love a blue slush puppy. Except for the fact that you ended up with a blue line all round your chops. Too be honest I was so overwhelmed by the forthcoming doom and gloom it would bring to my journey to work that at the time, I couldn’t have cared less about the rejuvenation of our cockney sparrows. No amount of jellied eels, pie and mash, or ‘Doin the Lambeth walk..OI’!… ‘Av a Banana’.. Was gonna sway this disconsolate dandy man.
It has to be said our hosting of the Olympics ( and Paralympics ) was nothing short of a triumph. Having not had any enthusiasm originally, by the time the Athletics had kicked off, I was like most of the nation glued to my TV once home from work. It wasn’t a case of using too much adhesive and going to bed with a portable attached to my arm. No, I just couldn’t get enough of these dedicated athletes running, jumping, and throwing themselves around in hope of becoming a medallist. It takes true spirit, guts and years of hard work to become an Olympian. I realise that now.
Of course the journey to and from work was taking its toll, a whole extra five minutes each way. Public transport was, at least to my knowledge holding it together. The whole country had a real feel-good factor about it. I won’t mention how much it cost!… The swimmers had been brilliant, the cyclists incredible, and the rowers, they had two of the unforgettable moments of the whole kit and kaboodle. First, Katharine Grainger finally getting her hands on that elusive gold medal with partner Anna Watkins. Then from the height of victory to the sheer heroism shown by Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter. Finishing second, a silver medal. No mean feat considering their build up. A combo of illness, lack of training time and loss of form. The perfect way to prepare for the biggest test of your career. Defending your title in front of a home crowd. Then as they got into the zone, on the starting line, just to add to the tension Mark Hunter’s seat breaks. The race is stopped fifteen seconds in, and restarted with seat fixed, as luckily in a 2000m race this is legal within the first 100m.
It wasn’t the fact they finished second that stirred up the patriotism. They were both on the brink of exhaustion, ( one struggling to even remove himself from the boat ). With a microphone wedged up his hooter courtesy of John Inverdale, while his partner was being given oxygen on his knees, Zac Purchase stated that he/they were “gutted and sorry to let everyone down” for finishing behind the Danish pairing. SECOND! Silver medal position. Maybe it’s the difference between love and money, but I do know when the football season restarted and those ‘professional’ players started whinging about not having holidays and there hardship of having to play twice a week, I genuinely thought about giving up watching a sport I had closely followed for 30 years. Such was my disdain for these idiots who were living a charmed life. I haven’t even mentioned the gymnasts. The tiny young girl with a name like a cake … Frangipanni? Whitlock and co. All taking gymnastics to another level. Bravo!
Apologies for banging on about the ‘Limpix. The main reason for mentioning it was the fact that, this monumental decision to award the UK such an event was the kick up the chefs passé, ( see what I did there, saves me from using rude lingo ), East London needed to re-galvanise itself for a new brighter future. As we dip our toes into the second month of 2015 ( quarter past eight ), seven years after the UK bid succeeded, a lot of the East End looks very different. Stratford has Westfield shopping centre, or Westside as GB, ( her indoors ), likes to call it. Shoreditch is now Tech City and Hackney house prices have rocketed. Bethnal Green surely has the jewel in the crown though.
Booked through OpenTable, ( there you go OT ), you have to give your card details. I’m guessing that’s in case of no – shows. Understandable. Typing Room isn’t a huge place and each time a booking doesn’t turn up it costs the owners a minimum £120. Small venues cannot afford wasters so it’s the best way to make sure it doesn’t happen I suppose.
It’s now compulsory that I mention OpenTable in every blog. Factually not correct but the truth is I use them to book any restaurant I visit ,( barring Subway ) so it’s only fair they get a nudge.
The Typing Room is situated in the Town Hall Hotel. It’s name derives from the original room it is housed in. Communications from the mayoral, judicial, and council factions were put to ink in this jolly old place. Typing Room is now occupying the space that was held by the Nuno Mendes ran, michelin starred Vajante. Mr. Mendes left his position at the much loved hotspot, to the disappointment of gastronomes, to open up Chiltern Firehouse in Marylebone. It left the owners no choice but to close a short lived legend.
A hard act to follow then. Renovated in 2010 the hotel is probably worth a sleepover but for me this particular night was all about the food, oh and the fact it’s less than thirty mins from Chez Rollo meant it was easier to drive. GB’s La-Dee-Da, ( Ma, think Nick Cotton in Eastenders, “Alright Ma ” and you’ll get my drift ), still lives in Canning Taaaaan. After a quick visit to both say bonjour to the outlaw, ( she isn’t French ), and also to get our Barnets cut by an old friend of wifey’s we were in Cliffy on the way to the first of our celebration weekend restaurants.
Cliffy is our car. GB named it. It has nothing to do with me. It does make life easier than what my old man used to say though. If someone asks me what my car is, I reply a Mini. Basic info as per request. If you were to ask my father however, his answer would be the full monty. He had a red Granada at one point. He loved big cars, and of course a gallon of petrol ( as it was in the ‘Good ol Days’ ) was not the price of a weeks shopping like it is now. His car was in his words a Granada two point nine eye ghia ex-pack estate (2.9i ghia X ). Of course I’m just joking and on a serious note would give anything to hear him say that one more time. It did and still does make me laugh though.
We found a little space alongside the hotel. Happy days!.. It’s not far from Lee Hurst’s Backyard Comedy Club & Bar. A superb night out if you are on the hunt for giggles galore. For those old enough to remember, Lee used to be on “They Think It’s All Over” with Nick Hancock. I’ve seen Mr. Hurst a few times since at the Queens Theatre in Hornchurch. Truly funny guy. His guests at TBCAB are normally well known comedians as well. A win double.
Once parked GB had her traditional pre dinner schmoke before we headed in. As you walk in to the reception, the Peg & Patriot is on your right. A very busy bar. I didn’t have a drink in there but friends who live locally say only good things about it. Judging by the feeling of the place, ( you have to nip in there for the lavs ), most folks in there seemed to agree.
Adjacent to the Peg is Typing Room. We were acknowledged immediately and ventured through the double doors into the restaurant where we were shown to our table. Reading a little about it beforehand in reviews etc.. I expected it to be bare of all character and stripped down to B & Q furniture. It is a chic room stylishly decorated with a minimum of fuss. An extremely comfortable room I thought. Music played was loud enough to hear, but not too loud that you couldn’t hear yourselves talk. We were sat to the right of the open kitchen as you looked at it. Mr. Westcott was stood there checking every detail. I like that. You want to know that care is taken and that the imagery is not just for show. In my experiences I’ve not seen too many executive chefs actually working in the kitchen.
How about this for music to dine by… Miles Kane, Stone Roses, The Smiths ( debatable I know but at least it was on the cheerier end of Morrissey’s songs, which is still happy on the same scale that the film SAW is classed as a Rom-Com ). We were also treated to a bit of Dusty Springfield, The Clash, Kings Of Leon ( 2 tracks = favouritism? ), and the Rev Al Green. It was like a blind man had been let loose in a secondhand record shop. Very random. To finish this paragraph on a positive though, I like all the above so I was happier than Morrissey at a giant quiff convention eating Jaffa Cakes.
The menu at Typing Room is straightforward. I’m unaware of this concept. It may have been done elsewhere but it’s the first time I have come across it. You only have two choices. A 7 course tasting menu, or a 5 course tasting menu. Nice and easy. I’m sure there are other eateries with menus of a similar vein thinking about it. Anyone? First one to let me know wins an all expenses paid trip to my local pub. ( Actually if you can pay your own way there and back I will get the beers in ). It’s a proper old school drinking mans pub. The sort of place where a Fosters top is considered a cocktail. So be warned, if you wear ripped denim jeans it’s highly likely you’ll be cajoled into standing on a beer crate while all the regulars poke and prod you. Most can’t spell fashion, let alone understand it.
I’m just kidding. The Traitors Gate is actually a very friendly pub, with some excellent real ale choices. They also brew their own beer. Look out for Deverells ‘Darkside’. It’s a cracking alternative to Guinness, especially if you like vanilla notes.
GB chose the 7CTM, not being one to go against the grain I chose the same. We also decided to go with a wine flight. As I was driving we asked if we could share one flight, with me just having a snifter of each. After the first two glasses it was clear that our request was lost in translation. Poor old GB ended up drinking the equivalent of near on eleven glasses by the end of the night. While it was a mistake, the sommelier Frederic Marti was a diamond, looking smart but relaxed he had a fantastic attitude towards his guests and talked us through each wine. The winner of the six was the outstanding Cru Elles. A red from a vineyard in France courtesy of a chap named Ludovic Engelvin. As Mr. Marti gave us an in depth annotation as to how this particular winemaker had slept in the shed, sold all his belongings and put his blood sweat and tears into his chosen field ( touché), we were already four courses in.
In my last blog I mentioned Marmite butter. Well what’s the old saying, like London buses you wait for ages and then two come along. We had a sourdough bread and a Rosemary Brioche. Accompanying them were a chicken skin butter and better still a Marmite butter. All the bread is made in house. It is seriously rock ‘n’ roll. If you want bread heaven this is the place. The butters are blooming marvellous. I did ask how you make marmite butter. I can’t even remember the second ingredient. Shhhh.. Marmites the first. Don’t tell anyone.
1. Snacks. This consisted of four different dishes. All worthy of their own place. The first was a samosa of sorts with a lentil dip , I could be wrong. Placed in front of us it looked like a cigar. Slightly awkward to eat but delicious. The second, Crispy fish skins with a Cod Roe cream. The skins, they tasted like fish! it’s certainly an interesting and necessary plate. Is it too early to run out of superlatives? What a tremendous bit of cooking. At this point my heads bobbing to fools gold by The Stone Roses. Number three, oh oh uh-uh-o… ( done the way Pharrell Williams does it in Beautiful, which wasn’t playing might I add )..Pigs Trotter croquettes with a brown sauce jam. Oooooone hundred and Eiiiigghttyy as Russ Bray might scream. My only complaint, I wanted more than one. Forget the other six courses, just more of these bad boys! The final snack was a chestnut cream, a cep cream, topped with potato and it had Apple and chestnuts buried at the bottom. A pretty awesome start. Problem one. I’m starting to feel a tad full. That bloody bread!
After the snacks we get a dish described as Celeriac, Foie Gras, Mustard and Walnuts. All ingredients were counted and in attendance. It looked as great as it tasted, and it certainly ran in accordance to all the other dishes looking exquisite. Next up as chef Westcott overlooked the food was Smoked Venison with Beetroot and Horseradish. Two of wifey’s favourite foods, and so it proved. Only four glasses of wine down GB stated this as her favourite course. I beg to differ. It was my least favourite. Very nice but just not for me.
By the time Morrissey arrived we were eating Yeasted Cauliflower. Throw Mint Capers and Raisins into the equation and you have a reverse in opinions. My favourite dish and the troubles least favourite. How many ways are there to cook a collie? Not a dog. A good old fashioned Cauliflower. Amazing cooking. You could taste each and every flavour.
Earlier I mentioned Eels. It was a £12 supplement but it was 12 English pounds I would part with all day long. My next plate, GB opted out and had a glass of wine instead, was Eel, Red Cabbage and Orange Duck. one word sums it up. Knockout. It was a real high calibre of chef-ery. I am now an Eel fan, ( not to be confused with the band The Eels who sung ‘Novocaine For The Soul’, although they are inoffensive), and providing they are not encased in jelly. If you had Electric Eel I would hazard a guess that would light up the room!… No? Ok sorry.
Another morsel from the sea delivered next. Halibut, Brassicas ( I’ve no idea ), mussel ( I’ve got a clue ), and spice ( could have been anything ). It was lovely. Perfectly cooked and a subtle spicing. A great combination. Like Saint and Greavsie, or Ant and Dec for the younger among us, but minus the massive foreheads and Geordie accents. Just a very clever double act. Born to be together.
In the meantime my lovely wife was finishing off two whites, and then my two. A non-sparkly and a bubbly tipple. I might be wrong but I think they were both from Austria. We went back to red to go with the Cumbrian Shorthorn Beef. It has Watercress and Hazelnut to partner it. Slight slip in that the wine turned up after the food but it was getting busy. The Beef as expected was divine. Big enough to enjoy but not so much as to overkill. The Jus, ( ooh look at me being posh ) was quality. Not sure if I’ve mentioned the other staff. They were very polite and knowledgeable. A credit to front of house.
Only two remaining courses. The first being a cheese selection, ( 10 quid supplement ). My turn to opt out. The cheese dropped anchor, four different types. None of which if I’m honest I can remember. Eight or nine glasses of wine in, neither could GB. I do remember this though, The chap that presented us with the bees knees, A slight look of Daniel Craig about him. Maybe a bit thinner. yes in my mind, no in GB’s. Credit to him though, he knew his cheese. He forgot it for a split second. Then out of nowhere he stormed through the quartet with great detail.
No point in lying, GB loves a plate of cheese. Me, I eat the occasional bag of Wotsits. She didn’t rate it as the best cheeseboard ever. Above average definitely, but not cheeseboard of the century. Nine glasses in I’m surprised she could see it in fairness, but she was doing well. One cheese was an Irish Stilton apparently. This information was gained yesterday, while sofa bound, and maybe factually incorrect, but it sounds about right.how my little lemoncello remembers that I do not know! .. The finale of the dinner was upon us, along with a dessert wine. Miles Kane’s ‘Come Closer’ was in the background. Smoked Apple, Jack Daniel’s and Dill. It was sublime cooking. Wonderful flavours. GB wasn’t overly taken by it. I thought it reached the same heights as the Beef. The dessert wine was awesome, although I couldn’t have too much of it.
We were done. We settled up and after asking Frederic Marti and chef Westcott to sign our menu as a keepsake, myself and GB left Typing Room barely able to move. Me from food, wifey from eleven glasses of quality wine.
In conclusion I will say just this. I don’t know how far you can take a restaurant but I think Lee Westcott has the capability to take it to the very top, if he hasn’t already. It’s a remarkable restaurant with a FOH to match. Being a short distance away means Cliffy can come. A fine excuse for taking the old boy out for a spin. I really suggest you find out how good this place is for yourself!.
Mister Atherton. When I started this blog, it was only supposed to be a five parter. I’ve still got to do City Social and Social Eating House. Now there’s New York and Social Wine. I’m not including the places in the Far East as for now that’s a stretch too far wedge wise. On the plus side you’ll keep me in blog thoughts, but you’ll also have me skint!
Finally, if you are still here, I started with 20:12 and I will finish with a little ditty of something that I thought was funny. On the super Saturday of the Olympics, ( Aug 4th , Mo Farah, Greg Rutherford, and Jessica Ennis all won gold within the space of an hour ), I had arranged to meet a friend, Geno in town for drinks. We met in the Punch & Judy in Covent Garden. Meeting up around 2.30pm seemed like a good idea at the time. Various drinks and bars followed and eventually we ended up in The Roundhouse mid – evening. Considering our golden girl, Jess was about to run her 800m and hopefully take the gold medal, the pub was relatively quiet.
Having had a few sherbets by this time and along the way losing a contact lens I was struggling. Looking around trying to trace my loose lens, I rubbed my other eye and nightmare.. The other one pops out. Now I’m virtually blind. Being a half sensible knight of the realm I remain calm, consider my options and conclude that on my next toilet break, I will bang a new pair in. They are daily ones so no great loss. In the meantime the runners are warming up and with my alcohol related patriotism kicking in I let out a little “Go on Jess”…
They set off and the runners bundle in at a pace eating into the 800m. Geno, my ‘friend’ says to me, ” this lot are bloody dull, give them another cheer for Jess and they might join in “… Of course intoxicated, my confidence is up my eyesight is down and Jess is struggling at the back… ” COME ON JESS ” I shout. Obviously she will hear me through the TV and 70,000 people assembled in the stadium. As the bell goes for the final 400m ( or I think it did ), Geno, nudges me and cites that one more big shout and they’ll be with you mate…. Taking the bait I scream out “COME ON JESS, YOU CAN DO IT, COME ON JESS”… To which the stranger standing next to me taps me on the shoulder, looks at me in a pitying way and calmly states “are you sure? … that’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson mate, Jessica Ennis isn’t on the track yet”… Well and truly suckered!
Thank you very much for taking the time to read the blog. Hope you enjoyed it folks!
Ps. The social life is taken ( as expected ), is a social view better? Suggestions? Thanks again. It’s been my pleasure 😊