Category Archives: Best beer garden in London

The Landor pub, 70 Landor Road, Clapham North, SW9 9PH

One of my pet peeves about Clapham and Brixton is that there is a real dearth of really good pubs. Not so North London with amazing gastropubs like The Albion, Draper’s Arms,  The Scolt Head and the Bull & Last. West London’s also pretty good with the Prince of Wales in Putney, the Dove in Hammersmith, and all those lovely little pubs along the Thames. Brixton has some good places (particularly The Prince Regent and the Florence but these are more towards Herne Hill) but Clapham lags behind. Sure you can squeeze yourself into The Sun or The Falcon – and that was much fun in my 20s – but now I’m getting on a bit, I need a seat, and, y’know, for it to be quiet enough to talk and stuff. I’d also like some decent food and good wine, not served in pint glasses at £5 a pop. I’d also like everyone I know to move to Brixton and the moon on a stick, just so we’re clear.

And so for me, Clapham finds a winner in The Landor. It has a pool table for lazy Sunday afternoons. It has been done up and looks right nice. It has lovely new management who come out when you’re having a fag to suggest you might want to try the garden later on. It has a brilliant singer on Friday nights with a lovely voice. They’ve done up the beer garden out the back with a lovely covered walkway and trees with lights in them. You can always get a table. But the atmosphere’s still good.

Truth is, The Landor is an integral part of my London story. Lady B and I lived practically opposite for a couple of years in our 20s and were there all the time, often the morning after the night before pretty much in pajamas and with whoever had ended up crashing on the sofa in tow, often playing pool, eating Sunday roasts, drinking pints of beer and bottles of rose in the summer. Lady B once laid down full length on the pool table. She also once spilled a full glass of red wine on her white jeans and stuck her leg up on the bar in order to “salt” herself to get rid of the stain. We had birthdays there. We often invited half the pub back for after-beers. Lady B has settled down somewhat since then but going back there still makes me laugh at the fun times we had.

There’s even a theatre there seating 60 people – I bumped into the theatre director last Friday night in the garden and he is quite a character. I’ve not been yet but its on my list.

So there you have it – an ode to arguably my favourite pub in London, to fun times, and what I love about living here – a good old fashioned pub, with regulars at the bar, good music, Sunday roasts, a game of pool and a pint. Now just to tempt Lady B back to London so we can hang out there together again…

Advertisements

Kaosarn, Brixton Village, Granville Arcade

Oh Khao San Road, Bangkok. How many times have I wandered down your bonkers strip, waiting for a bus to take me to Laos or Chaing Mai or the beaches in the South. How many times have I peered in the window of a tattoo parlour, panicked and walked away. How many times have I sniggered at the white kids getting corn rows or dreadlocks on your pavements, coo-ed at the stray puppies, admired ladyboys (but not their consorts), wandered round the surrounding alleyways with their Thai boxing dens and street food stalls where I ate phad thai and drank Singha or Beer Chang. Oh the fake Diesel jeans and the silver jewelry and the fisherman’s pants and the slogan t-shirts. How many times did I sleep in the Ghekko Guesthouse for a couple of dollars a night, lying under the broken fan to cool down. How exciting it was to find that secret rooftop pool to get away from the heat and humidity. But how sad I was to go back a couple of years ago and discover that you are now inhabited by drunken 16 year olds from Derby with a penchant for starting fights and peeing publicly. Ho hum.

I have no idea if Kaosan in Brixton is named after the Bangkok street so excuse me for the nostalgia-fest, but ANYWAY, Brixton has always lacked a brilliant dinner venue. Sure there are plenty of decent places – Hive Bar, Upstairs, The Ritzy, Satay Bar, Fujiyama – but nothing to get excited about. And of course for lunch options you’re sorted – Franca Manca, Rosie’s Deli, Wild Caper, Brixton Cornercopia – but the market shuts in the evening. You can always shimmy along Herne Hill way to the Lido Cafe, The Florence and The Prince Regent, but sometimes you just don’t want the walk.

So when Jay Rayner gave a glowing review of the family-run Thai restaurant Kaosan in Brixton, The Chef and I and it seems a huge number of other Brixtonites got terribly excited. And it is utterly brilliant. We went there on Tuesday night and had the most amazing meal. You can sit outside or inside and its BYO so we sat under the stars drinking bottles of Sol and eating deliciously spicy food – the atmosphere is brilliant and it had that holiday feeling which is soooo invaluable when you’re living in London.

The food was consistently excellent too. Tender and juicy pork skewers, delicately battered goong tod (king prawns), crispy gaew tod (prawn and pork filo parcels). And then the mains of gai yang, kow neaw, somtum (chicken in a gorgeous marinade with a spicy peanut salad and sticky rice) and the most delicious deep lamb massaman curry. And all this for £15 each.

We both agreed it was the best Thai meal we’d ever had in London and that (shock!) it was probably even better than most of the meals we’d ever had in Thailand. I’m dying to go back and try the pork ribs and the green and red curries and to bring friends and lots of wine and try pretty much everything else.

We met the owner Noy (Noi?) afterwards who was lovely – he runs it with his wife, neice and daughter, a proper family business, and he really cares about the atmosphere and ingredients and his regulars. He did start talking about the “concept” but I chose to ignore that part. He said if you brought a party along he’d make special bespoke meals for you, and he was an incredibly lovely and happy man.

I am so so thrilled to find a fantastic resto in Brixton so thanks to JR for finding it! Icing on the cake was seeing the big man himself on the way there…

Kaosarn on Urbanspoon

Some nice places I’ve eaten at lately – The Albion, The Gay Hussar and Hereford Road

1. The Albion, 10 Thornhill Road, Islington, N1 1HW

All you need to know about The Albion is that it has a really really lovely big garden that would be perfect for leisurely weekends drinking Pimms in the sun, and does a great Sunday roast. Inside, its all wooden floors and tables and great sharing plates of beef rib, so it makes a great wintery Sunday lunch place too. Last time I was there (with Juicy Jigsaw and Helga), we ate THE most incredible sticky toffee pudding I think I’ve ever had, a ton of white wine and some lovely fishcakes, and it came to £40 each which was very reasonable considering the amount of vino we managed to consume. I’m definitely putting this in the “best Sunday lunch” / “best beer garden” lists.

The Albion on Urbanspoon

2. The Gay Hussar, 2 Greek Street, Soho, W1D 4NB 

A blue-blood London institution this and not normally one I would have chosen for a girls’ night oot in Soho, but thanks to a deal from Keynoir (3 courses for £16), Giovanna, Tallulah and I went merrily along for dinner a couple of Saturdays ago. Its a Hungarian restaurant famed for its patronage by politicians and the atmosphere can be a little old and stuffy – the clientelle was an odd mix of gentlemen dining with their mothers, couples, and groups like us all wet behind the ears and clutching our vouchers. It hasn’t had great reviews lately which would be the reason for the deal, but we had lovely service, really delicious Hungarian wine and I thought the food was great – my mackerel starter and sea bass main were delicious and my friends loved the venison goulash and choucroute-type thing. We were the last to leave at around 11pm though (I was tempted for a shot of Unicum to remind me of my trip to Budapest but sadly denied), so it’s not the best place to take a group of friends, but is still definitely worth trying for its amazing character and history (I loved the bookcases full of political biographies) and delicious Central European food. I’m putting this in the “best place to take your elderly Conservative great Aunt / Hungarian colleague / local MP” list.

Gay Hussar on Urbanspoon

3. Hereford Road, Notting Hill, W2 4AB

Hereford Road was featured in Time Out’s best 50 restaurants in London, is near where friend Amaia now works, and it comes highly recommended from friends, so I went along for dinner last week. Try to get the booths at the bottom rather than the smaller tables at the top, but its a very cute restaurant inside. It features British cooking with a chef formerly of St John, so I’d go for red meat and sharing plates – the skate was beautifully cooked (above) but so delicate and tiny that we were starving afterwards and had to go for the chocolate cake to make up for it. The chocolate cake was INCREDIBLE but I was jealous at the beautifully smelling meat wafting around us from the open kitchen. Main, a carafe of wine and sharing a pud came to £30 each which wasn’t bad. I’m marking this as “best for date night” and am hoping to go back soon *HINT*.

Hereford Road on Urbanspoon

An homage to Aqua Nueva and other city-centre rooftop bars

It’s great to find a little place where you can escape the hustle and bustle of City life, admire the view and peace and quiet, over a nice glass of wine. I knew about Boundary in Shoreditch and the Coq D’Argent in the City, but I never knew there was one smack bang in the middle of Oxford Circus.

But the other night Madame Jo Jo took me to Aqua Nueva, opened at the end of 2009 but hidden from me behind a small door on Argyll Street. Once past the bouncer, we were in a lift and up 5 floors, through the posh sushi and tapas restaurants (apparently quite expensivo) and straight onto a lovely terrace bar with sofa seats and a view across the rooftops of Soho. I didn’t mind that it was a little pricey, nor that it felt a little too City-fied, it was a lovely little tonic from busy City life. A bottle of wine and a sunset later and we could have been rooftopping somewhere exotic and calm, and I loved that feeling. So, if you’re in the middle of stressed-out too-many-people-argh Christmas/ birthday/ wedding shopping and you just need a breather, head there and get on the roof for a glass of wine and enjoy the view.

And while I’m at it, here’s some other City-centre rooftop scenes that I’ve enjoyed over the last few years:

1. London – the rooftop bar at the Saint Georges Hotel at the end of Regent Street is sadly sans outdoor terrace and with the worst carpet I’ve seen since 1984 (and you may be sharing the bar with wedding parties…) but it has the most wonderful view over Oxford and Regent Streets, and is especially magical when the Christmas lights are on.

2. Istanbul – the rooftop bar at the  Mamara Pera hotel  by the Galata Tower (see photo below) has awesome views over Istanbul and is right by Nevizade Sokak which is filled with fantastic mezze restaurants.

3. Prague – the rooftop bar at the U Prince Hotel on the Old Town Square is great for getting some breathing space when the summer crowds are getting a little heavy. One lift up and you have great views of Prague castle and Mala Strana and the Old Town Square. Cranky service but you’ll put up with it for the relaxation value. Cowboys by the Prague Castle is great for rooftop cocktails too, with views over the Vltava to the centre.

4. Paris – Cocktails with the beautiful (slightly snooty) people at Georges in the Pompidou (see photo below).

5. Edinburgh – a few newish posh rooftop bars/restos like the fourth floor restaurant at Harvey Nicks (I found a great photo of the view but sadly my big heid was in it), Oloroso on Castle Street and the Tower Restaurant at the Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street.

6. That scene in Sex And The City when Samantha has a rooftop BBQ at her new appartment in the Meat-Packing District with Carrie and the girls and her new “lady” friends.  [Note: I am sure there are lots of wonderful rooftop bars in NY but I’m yet to go, is on my list, sigh…]

Aqua Nueva on Urbanspoon

Cafe Brood, Borough High Street Market, SE1 9AH

After seeing Money at Shunt (post coming soon), Esmerelda and I wanted a chilled out, cheapie dinner and at around 9pm we stumbled upon Cafe Brood at the bottom of Borough Market, next to Southwark Cathedral.  There was some impromptu French party going on and we were surrounded by live music, lanters strung between the trees, and tons of people walking around.  It was a really fun atmosphere, like a big street party.

We took a seat outside and were offered a choice between prawn paella or chorizo paella and drinks. This was perfect for us and I liked the fact that there’s one option eaten with a plastic fork – it reminded me of being at a festival. The paella was delicious and the red wine great value and smooth. A huge bowl of yummy paella and half a bottle of red wine was under £10 each – great value.  Find out if there’s stuff going on and go down for some relaxed grub on the pavement while people-watching – well worth it.

Cafe Brood on Urbanspoon

La Terraza, 27 Bedford Road, SW4 7SH

La Terraza is great because:

  • You can sit on the pavement amongst the plants in the sun, drinking rose and eating calamari and feeling like you’re in Spain
  • They have lovely friendly Spanish waiters who may (or may not) give you a shot of fire water because he likes the fact you admired his silk shirt
  • Most of South London’s hispanic population is at the bar, watching the football or dancing to the music
  • You can rock up later or simply wander in after your dinner to have a drink at the bar and dance to live music from two guys playing fabulously 80s synth salsa on a keyboard
  • Oh yeah, yummy tapas.

 

This does really feel like a local restaurant and I always have tons of fun every time I go. The last few times I’ve turned up late, drank wine and danced salsa with an elderly Venezuelan gentleman, but this time El G and I went to eat.  We had: 

Pork fillet (Solomillo de cerdo) this was seriously yummy

Roasted peppers (pimientos asados) – a bit plain and sour for me sadly

Jamon jamon – nom nom nom

Sardines (sardinas) – yummy

All washed down with a lovely bottle of rose and we finished up with a plate of manchego which we ate with glasses of rioja.  No salsa that night but a lovely meal came to £58 or £29 each – great value and a fun night. Also check out Buena Vista Cuban bar round the corner on Landor Road – haven’t had a drink there yet (on the list!) but admired the live music, dancing and general merriment inside on my way to The Landor.

La Terraza on Urbanspoon

My search for the best burger in London #3 – The Lido Cafe, Brockwell Park

Brockwell Park Lido

Bikinis in Brixton? Life guards and sunbathers?  Today was the first time I’d eaten at the Costa del Brixtonia poolside cafe at the art deco Brockwell Lido, built in the 1930s. It was a fantastic atmosphere, super busy, and I cant wait to go down there to swim tomorrow.  For today, I needed to shake off cobwebs from the night before (thanks to a wonderful dinner at Fernandez & Leluu  – more soon) so settled on a burger and chips at the Brockwell Lido Cafe washed down with an organic lemonade.

The Lido Cafe – poolside, BBQ, organic stuff – perfect

I went with Escobar, who didn’t particularly relish his first experience of my taking a million photos before eating for the blog, but who proved to be a perfect people-watching partner.  Couldn’t believe all the yummy mummys! The burger was fantastic – patty a little small but really juicy and perfectly cooked, the cheese and bun were really nice. The hand-cut chips were delicious and the drinks menu interesting and organic. Highly recommended.

Nom nom slurp – chin dribblingly good

I seriously cannot imagine a better summer’s day than swimming in the lido and having a yummy BBQ lunch and glass of wine – I felt I was in Sydney rather than London.  I’ve seen they hold regular comedy and music nights – another one for my wishlist. Having been Hackney way on Friday, I’d also recommend the London Fields Lido and the Pub on the Park for after-beers (see below).