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!
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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Beer and Barbershop

Personal tragedy means that the past week or so has been a very difficult time in the B-V household, so don't expect a new blog post for a while.

If you need something to do this Friday evening (October 14) I'd just like to draw your attention to the Beer and Barbershop evening, taking place at the church of Saint Leonard, Streatham at 7:30 PM.

There will be food and ale, and expertly-intoned drinking songs from Barber's Hop - a very fine quartet of which I just happen to be a member.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Silver linings

My time working in Canary Wharf is fast drawing to a close. As of now I’m dividing my working hours between the familiar Wharven territory and our new Holborn Circus office, and during this period of transition my tastebuds will get to say goodbye to some old friends and make some new acquaintances.

It’s not all bad news – I’ve discovered there’s a Birley, a Paul and a Byron all within about half a mile of the new office, which is reassurance enough that I won’t have to resort to lunch from Sainsbury’s every day. Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with Sainsbury’s.

But the immediacy and choice proffered by the Lady of the Wharf will be gone, and I might have to actually start planning where I’m going to get lunch from instead of descending a lift into a world of utter spoiled-for-choiceness.

One choice I would no longer have even if we stayed here is the top-floor food court at Cabot Place West. Comprising just a Burger King and Singapore Sam, about which I've previously blogged, it was one of the few places one could reliably find space to sit and eat ones lunch.

The entire floor has now become 'Pure Sports Medicine'. I don't know what that is, and I don't want to know. I suspect it doesn't taste any worse than BK or Singapore Sam though...


A taste of Italy


One thing I haven’t located in Holborn yet is a substitute for Zazà Gelato, which I’ve recently discovered here, perhaps later than I'd have liked.

The Italians tend to excel at real coffee and proper ice cream, and Zazà does both as well as anywhere I’ve found outside of Italy. They actually have three outlets on the Wharf but unfortunately none in the Holborn area, which is a crying shame.

Zazà - photo from canarywharf.com
As you’d expect, you can have espresso or cappuccino or latte, or whatever format of coffee you desire, and the ice cream - actually gelato, which technically is a subtly different beast – comes in a broad but not over the top range of flavours, built around the classics of vanilla, caramel, coffee and various varieties of nut.

And it's molto squisito. Trust me on this one.

You can have a giant cone with three different flavours if you insist, but the real Italian experience for me is the affogato al caffe – a scoop of gelato topped with an espresso shot.

The coffee stays hot, the gelato stays cold, and the whole combination is a treat in itself. Considering the quality, £3 isn’t bad value either.



They also do ice cream - sorry, gelato - in a croissant, which is a winning combination I thought I'd invented myself a few years ago.


A pint of beer


But one thing that neither Italians or Canary Wharf does very well is pubs and beer. Holborn to the rescue then!

The area around the new office is full of proper central London boozers, and after my inaugural trip to the new premises, I made my long-awaited first visit to the Craft Beer Co in Leather Lane - just a few minutes walk away.


I'd heard tremendously good things about this place - formerly the Clock House - and the range on the bar didn't disappoint, with a huge blessing of handpumps to choose from, as well as umpteen keg taps that focussed on imported American beers and British 'craft' rather than the usual mainstream crap.

As an aside, it's interesting that this place uses the term 'craft' without discrimination, unlike those who would have it refer exclusively to beers that aren't real ale, which is a nonsense.

I only had time for a couple of quick pints, and went for Mallinson's Om Nom - a golden ale with loads of Citra hops - and the Revolutions brewery's Severin Dark (mild) because I'd been keen to try this Yorkshire cuckoo brewery's products since they set up last year but hadn't had an opportunity to do so yet.

Also in evidence were some tried and tasted Dark Star beers, and plenty more from Revolutions, plus God-knows-what-else, and a couple of house beers brewed locally by Camden Town. With homemade pork pies and scotch eggs available too, albeit expensive ones, it's looking like a pub made in Heaven. Get the fuck in.

I can see myself spending a lot more time here in the coming weeks and months AND the walk down Leather Lane between pub and office is full of strange eateries that are just crying out to be sampled...


On The Wharf...

Zaza Gelato
Lower level, Cabot Place East,
Canary Wharf
E14 4QS

Kisok 3, Canada Place,
Canary Wharf,
E14 5AH

Jubilee Place,
Canary Wharf,
E14 5NY
  
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Not On The Wharf...

Craft Beer Co
82 Leather Lane
Clerkenwell,
EC1N 7TR
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