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!
ʼʼ

Monday, October 30, 2017

Cultural learnings of St Johns Wood for make benefit dubious sense of nostalgia

These days we're all told to 'check our privilege' - I must never lose sight of all the advantages in life I get simply from being a white, middle-class male, some of them so covertly advantageous that I won't even consciously be aware of them.

My gut reaction to this is that there's probably a fair amount of truth in the narrative, but it's far from universal and things are not that straightforward or simplistic.

One of the more nuanced downsides of being a person like me can be the lack of any sense of cultural belonging when it comes to food and drink. We'll never properly know or understand the 'homecoming' that others experience. We don't get to 'feel' aloo gobi deep in our bones.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Lost breweries: H is for Hoskins (and Oldfield)


When I was a very young child, my Godparents had a cat named 'Hoskin'. I can't remember an awful lot about him, assuming he was indeed a 'him'. He was probably a tabby, and must be at least 30 years dead by now. (Or he's still alive and kicking Creme Puff's sorry arse out of the Guinness Book of Records!)

In fact the only thing I actually know for certain is that Hoskin was named after Hoskins brewery, which itself has had a fairly confusing and obfuscated history. Indeed when I drank their beers, there were at least two different Hoskins to choose from, though of course now there are none.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Why nostalgia ain't what it used to be

We all know that things aren't as good as they used to be. Wagon Wheels have been getting smaller for years and must now be viewed under a microscope. Coca-cola doesn't taste as good as it did when we were hyperactive toddlers. And British Saturday night television was the finest on earth in the days when we still had 'good old-fashioned variety'.

We also 'all know' that this is mostly bollocks. As humans we view the past through nostalgic spectacles so heavily tinted with rose petals that we can't see the newly planted trees for the pile of aged wood. We have a keen sense of nuance and self-awareness, enough to understand things on the second level. We only think that stuff used to be bigger and better.

Or do we?

What if there is a third level of thinking to analyse? What if the revealed truth is that food, drink, entertainment and everything else really can get away with dumbing itself down, because people who are going to complain about it not being as good as it used to be will complain that it's not as good to be whatever happens, and everyone else will think that it probably is just as good as it used to be and we only think it isn't because of all that rose-tinted nostalgia stuff that blinds us. Except that it isn't actually blinding us and stuff really isn't as good as it used to be?

Does this make sense?

Monday, September 4, 2017

BV London Pub of the Year 2016-17 - the results

It's that time again. A little later than usual, but then it was a particularly difficult decision this year.

We've reviewed last year's top five and five spanking new entries, and it's all change. (Quite literally as last year's No. 3, the Clapham Craft Beer Co has now ceased to be!)

Pints have been quaffed, menus sampled, atmospheres taken in, and all for that noblest of causes -  picking out the best damn pub in all of London.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Has the GBBF lost its G?

Right, that's another Great British Beer Festival over for another year.

And, to be honest, at the end of the week, I've come away feeling a tad, well, underwhelmed. Meh.

Normally, I'd put that down to mid-life-crisisism, post binge-drinking comedown and my generally bleak outlook on life. But a few conversations with other attendees seem to confirm a pretty widespread view that this really was the most lacklustre GBBF for some time.

I don't yet know how it worked out from CAMRA's perspective, but here are few collated thoughts - not just mine but those of my friends, drinking buddies, random strangers and - of course - teh interwebz: 


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Why does everything have to have a 'quarter' these days?

Whatever claim BoxPark Croydon stakes to being South London's premier nightlife hub, it was always going to have a little local competition in the form of the stuff that was there already.

Croydon may still be short of a genuinely world-class pub, but it doesn't lack restuarants. Indeed the stretch of road south of Croydon Flyover has a concentration of eateries of just about every nationality and the area is now branded officially as the 'Restaurant Quarter'.

Honestly there are so many here, I do wonder if the area can sustain that much food. Especially overpriced, indifferent dining experiences of dubious quality.

Beer Circus used to be round these parts too, a small continental style bar that was one of the first in London to offer genuinely interesting imported beers on draught. It's long gone though, so you'll have to make do with the two Wetherspoons that top and tail the Restaurant Quarter (and the Milan Bar, at the Northern end of the stretch, is up for sale and won't be there much longer.)

Whenever places boast a 'French Quarter', or indeed a Restaurant Quarter, I'm always slightly bemused by the expression. What if it takes up more than 25% of the available space? What if you have French, Italian, Baroque, Chinese and Bohemian Quarters, shouldn't they technically be Quinters or something?

It annoys me.

Anyway, not particularly good restaurants in Croydon. Let's go!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

BV London Pub of the Year 2016-17 - part two

Here we go with the second part of this year's Pub of the Year contest. And in many ways, it's far more exciting than the first because it's the turn of the new contenders. In Top of the Pops parlance we have one New Entry and four Re-Entries this year.

So let's get right onto it, Pop-Pickers...