Tag Archives: Sunday lunch

Some nice places I’ve eaten at lately

I’ve been trying to lose some weight so I’ve restricted my dining out to … oh … three times a week or so. Here’s a little selection of the places that have tingled my taste buds in the last couple of weeks:

1. Mason & Taylor, 51-55 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6LA

A cute little bar near Old Street serving an incredible selection of craft beers and real ales – best beer I’ve had in London and so nice to see some great blonde and amber Belgian beers like Chimay and Westmalle served ice cold on tap.

Accompanying your beer are some well-thought out locally-sourced organic English tapas plates. Sadly these weren’t as amazing as I wanted them to be. Unlike Terroirs (French), Polpo/etto (Italian), Dishoom (Indian) or most Spanish tapas, you just didn’t get that zing or oomph in every small plate. This isn’t necessarily their fault – the menu is certainly really interesting – but the food was a little under-seasoned and The Chef pointed out that trying to do English tapas is hard because you don’t get those powerful flavours and spices that you get with other cuisines. Everything was nice – ox tongue, Scotch quails eggs, wild boar sausage with beetroot mash, arbroath smokie, beef sirloin – but just a little dull. To oomph it up you’d need much more seasoning, some spicy mustard or horseradish perhaps, full “wow” flavours, something a bit deeper. But it was my first experience of jerusalem artichoke (which was lovely with a nice aioli) – delicious and indeed fartichoky. I would certainly not have been welcome in Malawi last Wednesday evening.

I would definitely go back to try the delicious beers again and am reliably informed by a friend that after several beers, the Scotch quails egg tastes like manna from heaven so they may just have got it right after all.

The Chef and I were guests of Mason & Taylor and thank them very much for their kind hospitality & lovely service.

Mason & Taylor on Urbanspoon

2. The Telegraph, Putney Heath, SW15 3TU

This place prides itself as being a country pub in London and it is indeed – huge and high-ceilinged with wooden tables and chairs and a fire in winter and lots of greenery outside. I also thought you might like to admire my new bike panier in the foreground of the shot (newly christened bike geek!). Anyway, like all good Sunday lunch pubs, it serves a good spicy Bloody Mary, decent Chilean Merlot, and a nice roast dinner. It’s also a nice cycle ride from here to Richmond Park if you wanted to work all that food off.

It’s a good place to come if you’ve got kids or want to watch the rugby – but the room upstairs contained about 200 small children – including 20 or so newborns (scary-looking NCT Sunday lunch?) – so if you’re feeling a little delicate from the night before you’d probably be better off sitting downstairs.

A bloody mary, pint of cider, starter, roast dinner and far too much red wine came to £35 each.

Telegraph on Urbanspoon

3. Lantana, 13 Charlotte Place, Fitzrovia, W1T 1SN

I’d tried a Lantana coffee a while back for my coffee shop project, but had never eaten there, and was tempted to go back to meet Maximillian for lunch and to eat their corn fritters with bacon, rocket and creme fraiche. I am a massive fan of corn fritters having had a fetish for them ever since my mother used to cook them with our Sunday fry up. My mother’s corn fritters remain the best I have EVER tasted, second place being at Bill Grainger’s restaurant in Sydney. We need MORE corn fritters on brunch menus please, as well as more huevos rancheros.

Anyway Lantana is a nice place only I wish they’d just knock down the wall between “in” and “out” to make it a bit more open and less narrow. And that they close the door as it was freezing throughout lunch (I realise I’m verging into whingeing territory here which is very un-HPL but Max and I have this covered – we are setting up an anti-HPL blog for the express purpose of whingeing & moaning, so this blog can remain as enthusiastic and positive as normal). Anyway, the corn fritters were yummy – lovely salsa and creme fraiche and nice crunchy bacon, only I’d have loved to taste the creamy salty corn a bit more – el madre could maybe give them a few tips. Lovely flat whites to finish too.

My corn fritter, apple and elderflower juice and flat white with 12.5% tip added to the bill (not really necessary for lunch?) came to just under £20.

Lantana on Urbanspoon

Bull & Last, 168 Highgate Road, Kentish Town, NW5 1QS

North London does Sunday pub lunch places really well. There’s the Scolt Head in Dalston, the Drapers Arms in Islington, and countless places littered around Hampstead. I was recommended The Bull & Last by a friend who spent the entire tube journey from Kentish Town to Clapham North telling me how shit Clapham is for boozers (I agree – but I actually live in Brixton/Herne Hill which is pretty good, hello The Prince Regent and The Florence , so ner). I was visiting the gorgeous Sapphire with The Chef so decided to pop in, especially as it’s sister pub to the Prince of Wales in Putney which he’s always banging on about. What I didn’t know is that it’s a bit of an institution – while we were there countless locals, tourists and non-Northerners turned up to a 2-hour table wait, some of whom had taken an expensive taxi across London to get there. It’s also Giles Coren’s local which he raves about, calling it “some of the best pub food I’ve ever eaten“. The Chef said something along the lines of it was the best pub roast he’d ever had in London. So you get the picture.

My suggestions are: book a table because there were streams of people coming in and being told to wait for hours. We didn’t and we were very lucky to get a seat. Eat a home-made giant Scotch egg (£3 bargain) at the bar – runny egg and lovely meat, delicious. If necessary, have a spicy Bloody Mary (£6.50) pre-lunch. And a nice bottle of red over lunch – it’s worth taking your time over. We had a Monastrell Syrah (£19 ) but they sell Altos Los Hormigas, the malbec I drank in Argentina and the vineyward where my friend Aileen works, another good sign.

I got a pretty much non-stop commentary from The Chef on the merits of the food – alternated with eating happily in silence. It was fantastic. The charcuterie board of duck (£10) was delicious and interesting and brilliant value – proscuitto was lovely and the ducks’ tongues tasty quack and the rillettes fatty and good and the terrine rough and tasty and loved the sides of celeriac and guerkins and pineapple chutney to take the edge off the fat (The Chef’s commentary) and the soft parfait pate was to die for and I hate the phrase “to die for” but it’s appropriate here. And then the partridge roast (£14) – I know nothing about partridges apart from their propensity to sit in pear trees and don’t think I’ve ever eaten one. But it was delicious and rich and meaty and came with rich gravy that had reduced for hours (The Chef’s commentary), chestnuts, foie gras with partridge heart and liver, bright green cabbage, chipolata wrapped in bacon, roast potatoes and carrots. Man, my mouth is watering just writing about it, and it was truly delicious. Much more than a roast you could do at home and than you get in most pubs. There were extra tastes and flavours and time and love put into every plate. Come to think of it, that comment came from The Chef too.

Anyway, for all that grub and booze (we were stuffed and a bit tipsy) it came to £36 each so it’s not an everyday Sunday lunch place unless, well, you can afford to live in Kentish Town. It would certainly be the perfect birthday / celebration Sunday place. The staff were super lovely – a perfect mix between friendly and organised – and it was the kind of place we could have stayed for hours, regretting leaving before pud (and The Chef before a second bottle of wine). Hugely recommended and if you can’t make it North then go to its Putney sister – only don’t take an expensive cab across London to get there unless you’ve booked beforehand.

Bull & Last on Urbanspoon

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 Scolt Head, 107A Culford Rd, London, N1 4HT

The Happiness Project London has been accused of never going anywhere North of the river (Max!), so Amy’s birthday was a good excuse to check out The Scolt Head in De Beauvoir (near Dalston/Hackney) on Sunday.

This area of London intrigues me in that: (i) people can be quite old-school posh; (ii) you get families, babies and older people in pubs ; (iii) everyone seems to come from London originally, and many live round the corner from where they grew up; and (iv) everyone seems to know each other.   This is very different to where I live, as many of us have moved to London from elsewhere, there’s a hundred different nationalities, and certainly in Clapham Common pubs you’d be hard pushed to find anyone over 35.  So, I liked the novelty of being in a real “local pub” and kicked myself, not for the first time, for living dahn Saff (although I love what’s happening in Brixtonia, more soon).

The Scolt Head seems typical of a North London local boozer – it’s the self-proclaimed “De Beauvoir’s local” and could almost be an old village pub in Surrey.  Wooden tables, regulars who greet the bar staff as friends, traditional British cooking, the Sunday papers lying around, pool tables, high chairs and toddlers.

They had traditional ales on tap, decent wine, and an interesting menu that included a yummy Onion Tart to start (other starters sounded good too – Potted Old Spot Pork Belly, Smoked Salmon Pickled Beetrot & Cucumber, Chicory Goats’ Cheese and Smoked Bacon) and mains included a huge plate of Roast Beef with Roast Potatoes, Curly Kale, Yorkshire Pudding & Gravy (other mains were Whole Baked Trout, Braised Pork Cheeks and Root Vegetable, Pumpkin and Mascarpone Strudel).   Puds were Apple Crumble and Cream, Bread & Butter Pudding, Forest Berry Trifle and Neil’s Yard Cheeses with Chutney.  The roast was pretty good – my beef was delicious and pink although some said it was overdone, and you can tell you’re in a posh pub when it’s served with home-made chunky horseradish sauce (yum).

Certainly, the noise levels got quite high with all those shrieking kids (leading someone to remark about the downside of the smoking ban) and it got jam-packed after 2pm leading to pretty stressed out staff, but it was a great place to have a natter with good friends – a warm old pub and perfect for a traditional Sunday lunch

I’ve already tried the Duke of Cambridge organic gastropub near Angel (good but pricey) and  The Marquess Tavern – see, I do go North sometimes! – which were both decent gastro-boozers,  and I’d definitely go back to The Scolt Head for another lazy lunch.  I do think we’re missing an old-fasioned boozer that has a great traditional menu  in Brixton/Clapham, apart from maybe The Landor, The Calf, The Abbeville and The Avalon.  I’m definitely looking forward to more Sunday lunches in that part of town – just waiting for the invite, A & M!

Scolt Head on Urbanspoon