Tag Archives: gastropub

The arrival of the HPL monthly competition and win tickets to the launch of Mason & Taylor pub

In a slight change of direction for the HPL (and thank you to the gorgeous Lady B and assorted friends for the idea) I am starting a new monthly competition where you, lovely readers – and may I say you look simply STUNNING today – get to contribute on what makes you happy in London;  win free stuff as a result; AND the opportunity to write a little guest post for the HPL at the end.

  • So, in January I’ll be asking what makes you happy post-Christmas break when you feel fat and cold and I’ll be asking suitable venues to cough up free tickets/treats to the person who comes up with the best suggestions.
  • In February, around Valentine’s Day, I’ll be asking what is the best date-night in London and the most interesting (preferably saucy) responses will win a great prize.
  • And I’ll be sharing all your suggestions and mine on the blog and will only ask the prize winner to let me know if they enjoyed their prize and their thoughts on it, for a guest blog post (sending me a quick email is fine too, don’t worry).
  • So HPL readers who have nice prizes that they can offer, get in touch (I’m looking at YOU).

For December, the HPL is thinking about cold, rainy, dark weekends and catching up with friends before we all set off for Christmas and drinking / eating far too much. I’m thinking warm pubs and sharing plates and pints.

So this month, the HPL has two pairs of tickets to the launch event for Mason & Taylor, a new bar/drinking den opening this December in the East End (Bethnal Green Road), on Thursday 9 December 2010. Here’s some blurb about the pub: It has been set up by the founders of the award-winning The Duke of Wellington in Dalston. And I’m excited because the founders include Ed Mason who opened various venues in Leeds including The Faversham (The Faversham! My second home at Uni, venue for drunken attempts at The Worm on breakdancing nights, and having to climb out of my flatmate’s boot in a very short dress because his car doors didn’t work). It will sell craft beers, spirits, authentic cider and English wine (interesting) and serve classic British sharing dishes like rabbit & crayfish terrine with pea puree & shoots, York ham, poached duck egg and parsley sauce, ginger beer battered squid and pickled ox tongue. Yum.

If you fancy winning tickets to the launch night then the question is this: What makes the perfect winter Sunday lunch? Send me your responses by Friday 26 November either on the HPL facebook page or on twitter (@happyprojectLDN) or as a comment to this post. I’ll pick my favourite two and you’ll receive a pair of tickets each. I’ll also be there to say hi (will be the blonde invariably propping up the bar – purely for research purposes). And feel free to look at the HPL section on best places for Sunday lunch for inspiration.

I’ll start. My perfect winter Sunday lunch would be somewhere like the Drapers Arms or 32 Great Queen Street or the Canton Arms. It would involve a big group of friends, old friends and good ones, who I don’t need to spend time catching up with or finding out how they are. We just settle into jokes and taking the piss straight away. People arrive late and laughing and hungover from a Christmas party the night before. There is a lot of gossip and funny stories, including inappropriate snogging and dance-offs at work parties and similar. We start with pints of cider, mumbling about irresponsible Sunday drinking, then order a sharing plate of beef with all the trimmings. We go on to red wine. Everyone is happy and red-cheeked and we might even swap presents. We stay too long, drink too much. We get overly affectionate and hug and go home, smiling, even through the Monday morning sore head.

Now you…

UPDATE:  Sorry I got the date wrong, launch is on Wednesday 8 December – hope thats still ok! Will announce winners tomorrow…

UPDATE: And the winners of the first ever HPL competition are…. drumroll… oh how exciting…CHIARA and LITTLE MISS RANDOM for referring to morning drinking and bloody marys respectively. Enjoy it ladies and let me know how it goes 🙂 xxx

The Florence, 131-133 Dulwich Road, SE24 ONG

A great find right by Brockwell Park and Poet’s Corner in Herne Hill.  It helped that our first night-time visit to this area was accompanied by sunshine, a children’s party with balloons, and a Paris-in-the-springtime vibe with the old-fashioned wooden-fronted station, pavement cafes and a mixed crowd of ages, colours, backgrounds.  I like Herne Hill mucho.

Anyway The Florence was lovely inside.  Absolutely HUGE – South London needs a huge old boozer like this.  In fact, El G said it reminded him of one of the huge old pubs in Sydney.  Nice relaxed atmosphere with couples, people drinking wine and reading the paper on their own, older people (I know I go on about this but honestly there’s no-one over 25 in some parts of SW London) , groups of friends.  Apparently good beers and in-house brewing but as a vino drinker I was more interested in the wine list (which was good).

We ordered the pork belly (above) with beans and rice, which was a sort of chilli and delicious; and the homemade chicken and leek pie (below) which was light and tasty.  Only complaint was I didn’t realise veg didn’t come with it so our only side was…chips.  Oops. 

Served with a lovely glass of cab sauv, and really friendly helpful service – table service at a pub?  We like! – I will definitely come back, maybe for a Sunday lunch or to check out the beer garden in summer.  2 mains, chips and a glass of red came to £12 each.
The Florence on Urbanspoon

The Avalon, 16 Balham Hill, London, SW12 9EB

Sooo, I said I’d never do a bad review as I’m only going to post about places that made me happy.  But I really wanted to love this place and it definitely has potential, so I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt.  Niki and I went last night for a post-Christmas debrief over red wine, so I also admit that I may have been more interested in the chat than the food. 

Niki got there super early (shock!) and commented on what a lovely place it is and how nice the staff were.  And it looks amazing – a large bar at the front and a dining room with art deco-style chandeliers and leather seats at the back – very 1920s.  The Avalon was formerly The George (giant sprawling rugby-type pub) and is the sister pub to The Stonhouse and The Abbeville – so these guys know their gastropubs.

We started with two very nice glasses of cab sauv, and they brought a large jug of tap water, so far so good.  The menu on the website looks amazing but wasn’t the one we were given which was slightly less interesting.  Niki started with cauliflower, chili and coconut soup which she said was lovely, and then had the grilled halloumi which looked a bit ordinary and was a little oily.  I started with the ham hock terrine which was rough and meaty and very good, and then had the fried haddock with potato, tomato and beetroot salad – the haddock was yummy but the salad was really dull – it basically consisted of slices of beetroot, tomato and potato without any sauce or seasoning, even I could have done it myself…

My other moans (oh dear, am I turning into a whingey food blogger?!) were:

  • No bread with the soup – surely bread comes with soup like chips come with ketchup, you don’t have to ask for it extra? 
  • It was empty – although it was a snowy Wednesday evening in the middle of “detox January” so weekends are likely to be busier.
  • We had different people bring out each course – it would have been nicer to have our lovely waitress deal with us all evening.
  • We paid £30 each for 2 courses and 2 glasses of wine – a bit much for pretty ordinary food (although like everyone else, its January and I’m skint, so may have hurt a little more than normal).

But I’m still posting about it, because I reckon it would be nice and full and lively at the weekend, and like the Stonhouse, I suspect it’s speciality is steaks and burgers (both of which I would definitely be first to order, if I wasn’t on this pesky post-Christmas diet thingie), and perhaps also Sunday roasts.  I’ll certainly go back and try these, probably for a Sunday late lazy lunch.

UPDATE: Niki thinks I have been a little unfair and that the place, and the meal, was a lot better than I have made it sound.  And she also asserts that she never wanted bread with her soup.  So there.
The Avalon on Urbanspoon