ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.
You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.
I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!
There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.
Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Narrowing it down to five was a challenge. Trying to ensure all parts of Greater London are represented is borderline impossible, while there is always a strong temptation to include more pubs that are undeniably great but similar to those already in the competition - such as another Craft Beer Company outlet.
I've tried to pick pubs that I think are worthy of entry in the competition whilst retaining a bit of variety, and this is what I've come up with:
Friday, July 22, 2016
Except that things are a bit different this time.
Rather foolishly I committed myself at the start of 2016 to visiting every single brewery in London, with a view to putting out a book on the subject. That's going alright. Sort of. I've done just about half of the current total, so I'm just about on schedule.
The thing is, once you've one brewery (ok, a few) you really have seen them all. You start to see sacks of malt in your dreams. You try to find something that makes this fermentation vessel different from those fermentation vessels you saw last Saturday. All those American Pale Ales start to blur into one continuous stream of golden hoppiness. Another day. Another railway arch. Another industrial estate...
Friday, July 15, 2016
What this fad does afford me, however, is a rather tenuous angle with which to introduce a blog. Take that, Pikachu! I'm the one exploiting you!
Anyway, I've never been to Japan, and could be completely and utterly wrong, but my view of Japanese culture is that it's more insanely polarised than Brexit Britain.
On one hand you have a younger generation that is creative, exciting and spontaneous, leading the world in innovation, technology and brightly-lit things, and then behind the scenes there is an older Japan with very conservative values - family-oriented with a stereotypically strong work ethic. Quite the contradiction.
Saturday, July 9, 2016
I'm not going to play the 'yet another disgruntled Remainer banging on about Brexit' card, given that I felt the campaign waged by both sides was pretty appalling and have no strong views either way. But, hubris aside, if we've learned one thing from this sorry referendum malarkey it is that wholesale, irreversible constitutional change should not be determined by a one-off poll requiring only a simple majority to pass.
52:48 is hardly a clear mandate at the best of times, but several of the 52% expressed remorse almost immediately, and several more claimed they only voted Leave because they didn't think they'd win. Duh. Then you have this 'ere London. The strongest area in the country for Remain, with turnout badly affected by the weather and transport issues preventing folks from getting to the polls.
|Piri piri Croque Monsieur - the dish of the Euro 2016 final|
Anyway, having said I wouldn't play the disgruntled Remainer card (honestly I'm not!) I'll shut up in case people think I am.
Let's talk about football instead
|Two deserving finalists?|
|'Piri piri' is Portuguese for 'scraping through by drawing every game'|
I've done this a couple of times before though, with Black Forest Churrasco the dish of the 2014 World Cup Final between Germany and Argentina and Gnocchi Bravas when Spain took on Italy in the Final of Euro 2012.
This time we're going for a lunchtime classic, with a bit of a kick (how much will depend on how hot your Piri piri spice mix is, I go with good old reliable Swchwarz, tasty but not overpowering with chilli heat).
Piri piri Croque MonsieurA French classic with a Portuguese twist!
Ingredients - serves two:
Bread, four slices, ideally French rustic style
Cheese, four generous but slender slices - I used French Comte
Ham, decent quality, four slices or so
French butter, you'd be surprised just how much!
A shallot, very finely chopped/blitzed
Piri piri spice mix
The first step is make the hot sauce - melt a little butter in a small saucepan and fry off the shallots until very soft, then throw in a generous pinch of the Piri piri mix and a squirt of tomato puree.
|I know which side my bread is buttered - both!|
The sauce should take about half an hour to reduce to where we want it to be - it's basically a sort of warm chutney.
In the meantime we can start prepping the rest of the meal - slicing the bread and cheese and so on. (If we had weeks of preparation we'd commission a specially-cured ham with Piri piri spices, but we'll make do with a normal Wiltshire cure for now.)
Toast the bread to sub-toast toastedness, if that makes sense - basically don't toast it for too long - and then butter on both sides. That's right, both sides. Like you used to have to do in those old Breville sandwich toasters back in 1989 before your mum married Biff Tannen.
Layer a slice of cheese on top of each slice of toast - if the residual heat isn't enough to turn them gooey, knock them off momentarily with a spatula until they start to gooify, then slide them back on. Finally, add the ham to each slice, just allowing it to warm slightly atop the squidgy cheese.
Plate up immediately before serving, assembling the two halves of toasted bread, ham and cheese into sandwiches, with a good dollop of your Piri piri sauce spread inside.
Bon Appetit / Vamos a Comer!
Monday, June 27, 2016
I didn't care much about that. What I did care about was the loss of Brew Wharf, a brewpub that pretty much kick-started a revolution in my view.
And so, I give you this obituary I penned a while back - reproduced from the April/May 2015 edition of London Drinker - which summed up my thoughts at the time.
Since I wrote it, I've learned that the brewing equipment is now with Breakwater brewery in Dover, and some of the same people seem to be involved too, which may be cause for optimism even though they're taking a long while to get up and runni
ng. The Brew Wharf bar itself hardly ever seems to be open these days, however...
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
It's easy to forget that this even happens, given that we've been reaping a seemingly endless harvest of new breweries for many years now. But some, indeed many, breweries go beer-belly-up for various reasons, so this is the first in a series of posts where I look back wistfully - or in this case, not - at a few of them. Starting with West Country micro Ash Vine.
And if you're sitting there thinking 'Ash Vine... Hmm.. were their beers as boring as I remember?' then you're pretty much on the same wavelength as me! And if the name draws a blank, it's probably further proof of the singularly unmemorable nature of their beers. Their many, many all-very-similar beers...
Friday, May 20, 2016
In many ways I'm in a similar situation. I didn't grow up there, obviously, but I did spend several weeks of my youth holidaying on various Greek islands - the last time more than 20 years ago.
Until last week, when we spent a few days in Corfu as a base for a trip to Sarande, Albania (my 49th country, folks!) and to see if Greece was still as I remembered it.