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!

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The Social Life – Typing Room

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 😊

The Social Life Pt 3 – Little Social

“The Social Life Part 3”.. Little Social. Close encounters of the food kind.

So we arrive at the 3rd part of what could be, in good time, a quintet. Having not yet been to either Social Eating House or City Social for food there is definite room for expansion in the blogionary. Ok, I hold my hands up. I made that word up, but if you ever find it in the Collins English Dictionary, remember where you heard it first. Now, before I break into my usual drivel and barge through the restaurant in question like a cat with a washing line peg on its tail, I must raise a glass to an absolutely awesome website/app.

If you are ever struggling to find a place to eat in London, ( or anywhere else for that matter ), I really have to recommend OpenTable. Great service and so simple to use. It was through OT that I managed to get both Berners Tavern and Little Social booked. I was amazed they had spare tables, let alone at times that suited me and at such a late stage. Anyway my point is, if you’re unsure of where to eat, try it. It’s a winner!

Right, let me take you back a bit. Background stuff. My sister-in-law Aine had tickets for Sunday Night At The Palladium. Earth Wind and Fire were on, as was Hal Cruttenden, Maroon 5, the superb ventriloquist Nina Conti, the cast of Evita and as an added bonus, Jason Manford was hosting. As they were freebies and we’d never been before it would have been rude not to accept the invitation. Even if we were 2nd choice, last minute afterthoughts as her friends dropped out.

I’m not sure whether to take it as a compliment or not really. We always get asked late in the day. People tend to have the attitude of “well they ain’t got kids, so they’ll have bugger all to do on a Sunday night” ( maybe true ). It could just be that we aren’t likeable and are asked at a last ditch attempt to make up the numbers. Possibly both. Who knows. In all honesty I would say that her indoors has all the right ingredients to be good entertainment on a night out. I tend to be slightly more downbeat. If we were the O2 advert I would be the cat and the wife a dog. That doesn’t quite sound how it was intended!..the point being wifey is most definitely in the half-full glass category, whereas I tend to be more, the glass broke and now its in pieces and dry, but as it broke a piece of glass landed in my shoe. I cut my foot, stained my socks in blood and now I’m limping around like a 3 legged badger.

I’m sure I was going somewhere with this…..

Arriving at the Palladium we were in good seats and was treated to an excellent show. One of the highlights was Magdalena Alberto. The leading lady in the new Evita musical. Her voice made your hairs stand on end. Incredible performance. This led to me booking tickets for the aforementioned show at the Dominion Theatre. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

On the Wednesday before we were due to go, I whipped open the iPad And had a quick butchers on the OpenTable website. As the tickets for Evita were Saturday matinee time it meant I had a good excuse to book us up a bit of grub afterwards. Happily ( for me, not so much for my bank balance ) the site showed availability at Little Social for 18.15. Without a seconds thought for my receding bank funds I booked us in. Well, you can always get a comb over. Tickets booked, table booked, result!

November 1st duly arrived and off Geraldine and I went London bound. I won’t lie. Watching Evita, It was hard work. If you were to ask me the history of Argentina, I would have thought you meant the TOWIE bloke and his new lady friend. Of course the story centres on Eva Peron and her rise from a poor home to become 1st lady of Argentina before her death at a very young age. She was Argentina’s Princess Di.

Don’t get me wrong, Ms Alberto was still fantastic and it’s not down to the cast that I couldn’t get into the whole kit and kaboodle but the bottom line is as fascinating as it was, I got bored. ” Don’t Cry For Me Argentina ” was the undoubted highlight of a show that I wouldn’t rush back to. Maybe that’s my lack of enthusiasm towards the country’s culture and history as opposed to it not being an extremely good play. If it had been about the history of Argentinian steak or Malbec wine, well that’s another story..

When the show finished we headed over to Monmouth Street via the same street twice as we got lost. Why does my wife insist that she knows where she is going when it’s blatantly obvious she has no idea. I thought that was a male trait. How we ended up going directly to Monmouth street from Tottenham Court Road via half of the streets in Soho I will never know. Thankfully, and now pretty swiftly, shop found, shoes purchased. Happy wifey.

Time was ticking on now and it was approaching reservation time. It didn’t help that I was starving. Being the impatient bugger that I am I insisted on hailing a cab. Even this was slightly shambolic. After ten pints some would argue, correctly that I cannot speak clearly and precisely. At 6pm after being in a theatre show however, I would beg to differ. Sadly our cab driver might disagree. Pulling up in Poland Street. I was a trifle confused. After a quick exchanging of words, the driver raised his eyebrows as if to say “oh you mean PO-LL-EN STREET “… Yes I did. The same one that I mentioned when we got in the cab. Fortunately for us the distance between the two roads is minimal and so after crossing Regent Street we pulled up at the bottom end of Pollen Street. Again our cabbie expressed his delight at finding the correct road despite my poor pronunciation. Well done you!

Arriving outside the restaurant on time felt like a real achievement, ok we were a minute or two late but I was looking forward to this. I slipped in through the curtain while Geraldine finished her after shop cigarette. Greeted by a lovely young lady who took my coat, I took a seat and ordered a cocktail. I did say this once before, whoever created the “Poire Quoi” cocktail, you sir deserve a serious round of applause. It was a little glass of liquid heaven. To have the imagination and creativity to come up with a drink that luxurious, is true talent.

I think the best way to describe the restaurant itself is cosy. Cosy but I love it!.. The decor suits the space perfectly. Not too dark so that you can’t see but low enough to make it very intimate. A little background music adds to the atmosphere. It’s supposed to be different from its big brother across the road and there’s no doubt it is. Both are relaxing venues but you were made to feel like you could chuck your shorts on and roll your beach towel out here. In all honesty you’d struggle to roll out a tea towel so take that previous sentence with a pinch of salt! I just loved the homely feel of the place.

Seated at the far end of the room next to the wines ( happy enough ), we ordered our food and a bottle of Croatian wine. Big thanks to head sommelier Zainab for her recommendation. It was a real quality drink. It was a Malvazija from Kozlovlic. Might try and hunt that kiddie down. Our starter arrived and her indoors had gone out on a limb going for the Warm Smoked Eel. I chose the Violino Pumpkin Soup with Slow Cooked Egg. I’m trying to not go overboard about these courses but the smell and taste of my soup was out of this world.

It gets my vote for best starting course of the year. I just don’t know how these guys do it. Honestly, if I had to eat another dish again before I pop my clogs it would be that starter. Although I would ask chef Docherty to make it into a dish big enough to fill a bath. That way I get a bit longer on the mortal coil. Wifey was salivating over her Eel dish, suggesting it was the best starter also proclaiming it to be her favourite dish in ages. Well, if you are going to have an argument over food, at least make sure it’s the best food eh!.. After 5 minutes of gabbling over whose dish was best, Geraldine had the final say. ” they are both the best “.. Who said blondes are daft!

Going back to the wine choice, if you ever asked me to choose a country where they make a great wine, I don’t think I’d magic up Croatia. It’s a bit like asking who is your favourite member of the Muppets and answering “Pepe The King Prawn “… Of course if your favourite muppet is Pepe then you have my apologies!.. It really was an awesome bottle of wine. That’s why we ordered a second one.

When the main courses appeared we had a tough decision to make. Who had what!.. Geraldine had chosen the Braised Irish Ox Cheek with Roasted Marrowbone. My own choice was the Cumbrian Bavette ( I know the area but not the cut of meat ), with a side order called Poutine. What a strange but interesting dish. I’m not really sure what it’s perfect pairing would be but it goes lovely with Cumbrian Bavette. It’s obviously the Little Socials take on it, but regardless it was decker to the Bavettes double. I would comfortably give this my main dish of the year if it wasn’t for the fact that I don’t eat fish very often, ( see Berners Tavern ).

We both had a try of each dish. As much as I loved the Ox Cheek, there was no contest. This food was on another level and I don’t mean it was served on Dane Bowers. The only way it could have been better is if it was served on a deserted beach in the Indian Ocean by a meerkat ( I love meerkats ). You just couldn’t fault it. As I get older I dearly wish I had learned the art of being in some way a decent chef, actually a remotely half sensible cook would be nice. I make a mean potty wedge but my limits are drawn there. Talking of which, why do sweet potatoes have a tendency to stick to your teeth?

Dessert was a conservative order. We went for the Apple Tarte Tatin with ice cream ( two share ). I think that’s why I’m getting confused about the last course. I thought I had this at Berners but.. I know we had it at Little Social. Amar De Dout!.. If I had to describe the dessert ( the general idea of a review ), I would use three words. Amar De Dout. I have no idea what they mean, if anything, but it was cracking. If you really want a negative, a splash more ice cream would have been peachy but that would be being exceptionally harsh. It was a dish of delight.

I should also add that the service from all the members of staff was first class. If people do have a bad experience in a Social restaurant then I’m shocked. It’s never failed to deliver for me. Overall it was just about one of the best meals I’ve eaten. I’m not including the wife’s Sunday roast obviously.

Marks out of 10:

Ambience : 10

Service : 10

Food : 9.5 ( literally I’m knocking half a mark off for the lack of ice cream )

Summary: I need to work harder, to earn more, so I can go back sooner rather than later. Amazing chef-er-y. Awesome sommelier. Incredible cocktail. Out of this world, full stop!

Berners Tavern

“The Social Life Take 2”

The following week. It’s my sisters 50th. She doesn’t look it in fairness. In fact I’d go as far as to say she doesn’t look a day over 38. She wanted to go to a high end restaurant. Somewhere with a buzz. One of these trendy places that you read about in the magazines. My sister , lets call her Sharon ( it is her name after all ), has never really done the fine-dining thing. For quite a few years working in the city, she had always knocked back invites to here there and everywhere with the odd exception, sacrificing Nights out for going home to the kids, which is fair enough. Here she was at 50, now ready to dip her tiny toe into the water… And good for her I say!

Well, you’re only 50 once right!… So as part of my birthday present to her We, that’s the wife and I, agreed to foot the bill for a meal out somewhere. My brother and his wife would also join us for the celebration. The last part of the equation being exactly where to take her. I love my sister dearly but she is the sort of girl that likes her steak well done… And some.

Still, I’m up for a challenge, and this one consisted of finding a restaurant that’s very much on the hot list of places to go, had a varied menu, and most importantly of all, serves great food. Having been to Pollen Street the week before, the Atherton group of restaurants were at the forefront of my mind. I’ve never been to places like The Wolesley, The Delauney, or Hawksmoor, but I’ve read reviews and magazines etc etc. They all sound stonkingly good and after studying the menu were all in the running.

I also needed to find a restaurant with flavours to compliment my sisters own palate.
Well, we have already covered how she likes her steak. Her main beef ( no pun intended ), is the blood. If there is any inkling of blood it will go straight back to the kitchen. I wouldn’t mind seeing my 5ft tall sibling going toe to toe with Rammo over her rare to medium steak. Beware Gordon, she might be small but she has a serious bite on her!

Fish is a definite no-go. I think the closest my sister has got to fish is visiting Sea World. I’m kidding. We just aren’t big fish eaters.. We obviously get our fussy food genes from my mothers side. My aunt ( our mums sister just for the record ), once tore a strip off of a chef just for having the nerve to sprinkle parsley onto a plain omelette!

Anyway, after much deliberation, I went for the selfish option. It’s certainly one of THE places to go , but admittedly it was of my choosing. Checking on Open Table, I was quite shocked that, The Berners Tavern had a reservation available for 3:30pm. Opened to rave reviews in 2013 it was a restaurant I was seriously looking forward to visiting. I just hoped that my sister Sharon would embrace the experience and enjoy it. She deserved the best day possible.

Very quick history lesson here. The Berners Tavern is situated inside the London EDITION Hotel, part of the “hip” subsidiary of the Marriott hotel group. Formerly the Berners Street Hotel in the Fitzrovia area of London, through the vision of Ian Schrager it has been transformed into an unbelievable place to stay, with prices to match I might add. The hotel, once five townhouses has been the living quarters of some seriously wealthy and notable people in the past including Carl Faberge and King Edward VII. It is also famous for the ” Berners Street Hoax ” in 1810. The street that is, not the hotel.

The position of the hotel, just a bit further down from the exclusive Sanderson Hotel ( also designed by Schrager ), will certainly make the road one of the most popular choices for the wealthy tourists of the world. I would suggest it could be interesting to see how each hotel compares with the competition.

Lets continue shall we. We arrived in good time. After a cheeky half, in one of the backstreet pubs, the four of us mooch down to our destination. Opting to enter through the hotel entrance as opposed to the restaurant, it genuinely took my breath away. With luxurious green sofas and a giant egg for a chandelier, it was opulent, but not totally in your face. Understated class. Then again if you pay for the best, in theory you get the best. They say first impressions count. My thinking was bloody awesome choice Mr. Rolls. It has to be said that all four us were extremely smiley as we chose a cocktail from the extensive list available.

Like I said, if it were solely about first impressions the The Berners Tavern would win every award going. What an incredible venue to eat in. The high ceilings, all the paintings, the sheer theatre of it all cannot be underestimated. As we made our way into the restaurant and found ourselves seats at the bar the birthday girl was grinning from ear to ear. So far so good!. After a second cocktail, the Vintage Vesper ( well someone has to try them ), we were shown to our booth almost in the centre of the room. I cannot repeat enough the jaw – dropping scale of this room.

Seated and comfortable, we ordered a nice Chenin Blanc; if memory serves me correctly. Now the difficult bit. Ordering food. I have no idea what the chaps name was who was looking after us. Scrap that, he is a Mr. Chris Bakowski. I will say this though, he was absolutely brilliant. I’ve been to places before when it’s frowned upon if you don’t know your Omelette from your ostrich. I don’t know why but I never expect to be served by someone who sounds just like me, or who looks as ruffled in a suit; coincidentally just like me. Talk about how to make people feel relaxed. What an absolute star he was. To try and explain to all of us what half the ingredients in the dishes were, was a task in itself. He tackled it with confidence and wit. Superb managerial tact.

My sister, went for the safe option as a starter. The Berners Tavern Chopped Salad with Chicken. My newly wed SIL ( sister-in-law ) chose the Pumpkin Risotto, while both my brother and I took a shot at the Potato & Chicken Broth. The salad must have been delicious as it’s very rare for big sis to be quiet for more than five minutes. I’m joking, I’m joking!..She even pushed the boat out tasting the jus. Go Girl! I thoroughly enjoyed my broth as did my sibling Kev. The Risotto went down a treat. Certainly a good start.

The newly weds decided to twin up on their mains both having the Roasted Goosnargh Chicken with Bacon and Mashed Potato. I opted for the Cornish Cod. Wow Wow Wow! Without doubt the finest main course I have had this year. I’m not a huge aficionado when it comes to our sea bearing morsels but this baby would take some beating. Melt in your mouth stuff, just serious chef-er-y ( yes I made that up I think ) at its highest level. The taste matched the look, and believe me it looked pretty scintillating.

Sharon went for the Romney Marsh Lamb and devoured it, along with a side order of chips. In her own words it was ” better than Burger King ” she mocked. You gotta love a back handed compliment. Mr. Bakowski done a secondary check to make sure all was well. Sharon replied with something like ” this is amazing thank you “. Definitely the wine was having an effect. Along with the Pimms and cocktails as we were all feeling a little tipsy.

Talking of which we ordered a 2nd bottle of vino, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Lovely it was too. It was dessert time. Sweeeeet!… Or not. Sadly as a person who writes without the assistance of any John O’Groats ( notes ), having waited 6 weeks to write this I now can’t remember for the life of me what my sister and I ate. I do however recall that my SIL had a coffee. Old school normal coffee. Not a mocha, cappuccino or latte in sight.

There was some confusion over our last course, maybe that’s why I haven’t a scooby over what I had. First off we recieved four plates. Then a waitress took two away. Then the other two. Then brought two back. It was a little comical really. I’ve no idea what the problem was but after a short period of two young ladies discussing the predicament it was all sorted and our final course arrived. Looking back I think one dessert was ready but the other was still in the development area backstage. Confusion reigned supreme …for all of five minutes.

Peaches, Sharon ate peaches of some form and I went down the apple route. Cheers for reminding me of the desserts sis.. I had to ring and ask the other 3 folk present as I simply cannot remember. An apple tarte tatin I think it was although hand on heart I couldn’t say for sure, and I was a very happy little eater. I wish I could remember the names, ingredients etc etc more clearly but cocktails, wine, and beer eventually took their toll. Probably another reason, I’m not a good reviewer! Gets drunk, can’t remember what he ate ( or drank ), … Actually I sound perfect for the job!

Once the meal was over, we grabbed our coats and fluffy bob-tailed it towards Leicester Square, diving back to collect a forgotten umbrella, to meet my good lady who was partaking in a ghostly walk of London.

There you have it. Berners Tavern in one fell swoop. Two down, one to go. For the record, marks out of 10:

Ambience/Atmosphere = 10

Service = 8.5

Food = 9.5 ( main course/starters both deserve 10s though )

See you at Little Social.

The Social Life – Pollen Street Social

Good evening,

Let me start by explaining exactly what this isn’t. I love the whole fine dining experience but this isn’t a review for foodies, food snobs, or just snobs. My food knowledge doesn’t stretch much further than knowing the difference between a morel and a mussel. My palate isn’t intelligent enough to identify the majority of the individual herbs used by the modern day chef, or even the earlier ones for that matter. I’m relatively positive that Matthew Fort will not be quaking in his boots at the thought of me challenging for his position as judge in The Great British Menu. I actually thought Sea Buckthorn was a Grand National winner. You get my point right.

I do however believe that I have been to enough fine dining establishments to gauge what is required for a top night out. I’m not for one minute suggesting that I frequent these places on a weekly basis, it’s normally a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary. This year however has seen her indoors turn 40, my sister turn 50, my brother getting married, and of course the obligatory visit to a Gordon Ramsay restaurant for our wedding anniversary, ( 12 years in case you were wondering ).

Over the last two months I have been extremely privileged to be able to dine and drink in three incredible places. I’m not saying it didn’t take a lot of saving up, trust me it did. If we did have children they’d have been for sale on WeeBay or something similar. The thing about it is, because we save up so hard to visit these places, we maybe expect a bit more from what is, sometimes basically a 3 course meal. It’s a treat, Like going to the opera, or in my case going to see The Arsenal. Thinking about it, these days going to Arsenal is probably the dearer of the two!

A “review” is maybe the wrong description. I know grammatically it won’t be perfect. I can also confirm my terminology isn’t always the best but come with me and who knows, you might even like it. It’s just my view of certain places that I have been lucky enough to visit. There’s also only so much you can write about the IOW Festival. For details on that see previous posts.

This particular blog ( and the next two, although much shorter ) are dedicated solely to one man and his restaurants. The wife and I started to follow his career after visiting Maze in 2007. I think it was for my birthday. The food simply blew us away. Geraldine had the tasting menu while I chose individual dishes off the a la carte menu. She basically had a mini version of what I had. It was the attention to detail. To try and explain it would take me a year but it must have had an impact because here I am seven years on trying to write about it. It was the best grub I had eaten in about a year. It was my first “official” outing after a serious illness. There’s a back handed compliment. Best food in a year – but haven’t been out in a year. My wife had booked it as a treat. I remember the weather being pretty cold and not eating that much but my diet up until then had literally been soup and water so….

Since then, the man in question, Jason Atherton has gone from strength to strength. The culmination of which was the opening of Pollen Street Social in 2011. I do remember Mr. Atherton winning Great British Menu with two courses in 2008 as well. In fairness I’m sure he wasn’t unemployed in that gap between 08 and 11 but this was supposed to be a short review!

My lovely young filly and I have visited Pollen Street Social a couple of times now. The most recent being September 4th. Wifey is a huge fan of Mr. Atherton, not pictures on the wall stuff, although it’s been a while since she let me in the cellar!..and so I took the liberty of contacting the Head Of OPerations ( ignore that big P ) to try and arrange a meal wherein the man himself would be present. A surprise for my best friend and banjo, both of which are my wife. . To cover this particular bit swiftly Sarah ( the H.O.O ) was absolutely amazing and really went above and beyond the call of duty to try and help me achieve my goal.

If by ridiculous coincidence you at some point do find yourself reading this Sarah Hutchins, I thank you. Your personal nature of responding is a credit and an asset. Thank you for all your help and input.

I would love to go into detail about how shocked my darling wife was when I appeared at the window at 11am on the day in question but I’m not sure we have the time. She was expecting her boss to collect her to take her to a meeting about Neuro – Linguistics in Croydon. It’s almost the same I guess. After whacking our gladrags on, Scottish Alex collected us at 11.30am and our carriage took us up to Hanover Street, a thirty second walk to PSS. We were running early so dipped into House Of Hanover. A quick browse and a cheeky photo of a BMW i8 later we were heading into the reception at Pollen Street. Coats off, we sought a place at the bar. It’s quite a big space for a London restaurant. Very relaxing.

A cheeky cocktail followed, sadly no “Wonky Donkey” which is my personal favourite but you can’t have everything, before being shown to our seats in the main dining area. We were sat by the walkway close enough to the kitchen to see a glimpse of what was going on, far enough away from the kitchen so that Geraldine couldn’t get distracted by certain persons if by chance they were in attendance.

I should point out that we BOTH like Mr. Atherton. Admittedly in my opinion with that quiff he has a ropey haircut, and I am an expert in dodgy barnets having owned one for the best part of 40 years, but that is literally all I can fault him on. The striking thing in our opinion is his down to earth and humble attitude. His ability to create that relaxed laid back atmosphere in his restaurants whilst producing food fit for the gods is such a talent.

What makes a great day/night out?…Most certainly the attention to detail places like PSS continually strive to achieve to ensure all parties have the best experience possible. For instance, a minute after being seated, a small table type thing appears for the wife to place her handbag on. A minor thing maybe but. While taking in the wine list and studying the menu ( PRIORITIES! ), a lovely young lady in a suit appears and presents GEraldine with a personally signed birthday card and a signed copy of Mr. Atherton’s new book ( along with a much smaller E to put in her name ).

In the meantime , ( not only a great word but a great lager served at PSS ), Mr. Atherton’s calm northern accent fills the air as he walks through the restaurant ( fully quiffed ), and Geraldine starts grinning. ” He’s here isn’t he ” blurts out the stunning looking forty turned fourteen year old opposite me.

We order our starters and mains along with a beautiful bottle of red wine. Have you ever been somewhere when you feel as though you are being treated just that little bit more special? I’m not for one minute saying we were treated better, but it certainly felt that way. Our amuse Bouche ( is that spelt correctly? ) arrived, an unexpected dish. A mushroom tea. I can most definitely remember the taste buds tingling with delight. It was so flavourous. I know that’s not a proper word but I heard some bloke say it on Come Dine With Me so!

The starters arrive. Geraldine had the Quails Brunch and I had the Goosnargh Chicken with Egg and Truffle. The smell was incredible. If I recollect it the right way the Quail was presented with full on bells and whistles. There was definitely a box involved. Brilliant. In fairness the food was pretty damn tasty as well. I am being a little harsh there, as it was 10/10 cooking. I apologise if it sounds like I’m hyping it up to extreme levels, but as someone who cannot cook an omelette in three days, let alone thirty seconds, like they do on Saturday Kitchen, it’s just a talent I hold in the highest regard.

Our main course was the Cote De Boeuf ( for two ). This was possibly the only downside. It wasn’t necessarily the cooking at fault. It was cooked perfectly. The problem ( again only just an individual opinion ), is that at places such as Pollen Street you expect so much more.
It isn’t a criticism of the food. It’s solely that every other dish is delivered with a theatrical experience. If you read the menu the CDB is described as being served with Duck Fat Chips, Green Salad. That is EXACTLY how it is served. Maybe looking back it’s for people like my sister, ( more on her later ), whose idea of adventurous flavours are having basil on their spag bowl. I can only repeat that the cooking again was as good as it gets, but our choice of main dish wasn’t the best. Luckily we still had desserts to look forward to.

In between the main course and the dessert we were served up a second “extra”. A palate cleanser in the form of a deconstructed milk-shake. Except that it wasn’t. I can’t really remember what it was exactly, I blame the wine, but it was spectacular. It had froth ( my sophisticated description ).

Turophile, now there’s a word you won’t hear me use very often. A turophile is a cheese lover. Therefore my wife is a turophile. She does love her cheese. Even though she debated fiercely over whether to have the Goats Milk Rice Pudding or the Cheese Board, there was always only going to be one winner. I, on the other hand went straight down the Granny Smith Parfait route. There was a raft of cheeses to choose from. Of the five that Geraldine picked, the Irish blue ( name at this point unknown ) was truly magnificent. If my wife was to ever cry over a cheese I fear it would be this one. It turns out Cornish Yarg is not all it’s cracked up to be and that a soft French cheese has the ability to turn a feisty blonde into a dribbling giggling schoolgirl.

My Granny Smith Apple Parfait ticked every box there was to tick. It was exquisite. It was one of those you had to be there to try it moments. I’m not sure how to describe it but it was just “right”. I make a mean fajitas but I’d sacrifice those bad boys to be able to knock up a dessert like that. Compliments to the chef.

Before we left I did ask a waitress if it was possible to meet Mr. Atherton. Sadly he had done his bit and had left for the day. It would have been the icing on a very large cake but bad timing and a busy restaurant dictated it wasn’t meant to be. We sat at the bar and had another cocktail. One for the road! Geraldine received another gift. This time a small birthday cake wrapped up in a beautiful box courtesy of PSS.

We left as extremely happy bunnies. For a fine dining establishment it is so laid back and comfortable. The food sets a standard as good as I’ve eaten and the staff are first class. I think the thing that makes this place special though is simply that it shouts of Jason Atherton’s persona. Highest quality, small details covered, but without screaming look at me from the top of its voice.

” The Social Life ” part 1 is now at its end. Part 2. Coming soon…..