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To say that Monty’s has a cult following would be a bit of an understatement. Once a stall at achingly hip Maltby Street Market – where many a street food star is born – it got itself a rep for serving absurdly good salt beef sarnies, long before the reuben became A Thing. Then came a Kickstarter campaign to fund a permanent restaurant. And here, at last, it is. The compact, retro menu echoes those of New York’s kosher-style delis, serving sky-high sarnies – not quite as OTT as across the pond, but still generous – plus chicken soup, bagels, chopped liver, latkes, pastries, salads and sauerkraut. It’s a handsome space, dominated by a long, L-shaped bar and diner-style booths that hug a wall of exposed tiles. Chalked up on the specials board is a turkey schnitzel, served, Holstein-style, with a fried egg. I was tempted. But if this is your first time, order one thing: the salt beef. Monty’s is one of the few places in London where they make their own, from scratch, and it shows. They choose the fattiest cuts of brisket, dry cure it for days with their own secret blend of sugars, salts and spices, soak it overnight, then simmer it for hours. It’s salty (but not too salty), fatty (but not too fatty), and soft enough to eat with a spoon. It’s impossibly moreish. It made me want to race into the kitchen, bundle a load into my handbag and run off into the night screaming ‘more for meeeee’. Try some in the signature reuben: toasted rye, melted swiss cheese, a lick of mustard, ‘Ru
Down a perfectly normal-looking street in East Dulwich you'll find a perfectly not-normal-looking abode known as the House of Dreams. Taking the concept of one man's trash being another man's treasure and running with it, artist Stephen Wright is in the process of covering every available surface of this home in his kitschy mosaics. Whether it's abandoned dolls or pen lids, everything here comes together in a magical hideaway that's only open to the public a few days a year. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for information on open dates and to book an appointment.
You know those super-cute, uber-quirky interiors you’re always lusting after online? The ones full of pastels, pot plants, retro prints and mid-mod furniture? If the answer is ‘nope’ then you might want to stop reading, since Palm Vaults – which landed on the pedestrianised top end of Mare Street this summer – is totally committed to its eccentric look. From the enormous cheeseplants to the luscious pink and green icing on the cakes, the vintage marble-topped tables and exposed brick walls right down to the pink paper in the till, every tiny detail is geared towards aesthetic nirvana (2016 edition). For better or worse, it’s been called ‘London’s most Instagrammable café’. What’s surprising is that Palm Vaults is more than just a pretty face; it does the business when it comes to eating and drinking. When it first opened, this place didn’t serve much more than coffee, though we’re talking more than greasy-spoon cappuccinos – matcha frappés, avocado coffee and colourful rose, aqua and lavender lattes appear on the pegboard menu alongside five hot chocolates and nine loose-leaf teas. Ditching dairy? Then try soya, coconut, oat, almond and cashew alternatives to cow’s milk. That’s a whole lot of vegan coffee combinations. Now, Team PV have also added breakfast, lunch and brunch to the equation. They do avocado on toast, obviously, but again there’s a twist: chilli, seeds and (optional extra) bits of downright delicious vegan ‘bacon’ made out of coconut. The spinach dhal was a
God's Own Junkyard showcases neon artist Chris Bracey's personal collection of work in a salvage yard in Walthamstow. It contains everything from his signage for Soho sex clubs in the '60s to his work for the movie industry, including pieces that were used in 'Captain America', 'Eyes Wide Shut', 'Byzantium' and more. Sandwiched in between all of this, you'll find his artwork, some of which have been exhibited in his gallery shows, and others that were specially commissioned by other artists and clients. The Junkyard is currently open to visitors 1030am-4pm, every Friday and Saturday. Entry is free.
It was a marketing wheeze that really, really worked. This new café/takeaway in Covent Garden sold every dish for a penny on opening day, and when we went a few days later there were huge queues waiting for tables and (mostly) takeaway. It reminded us of the old drug dealer’s trick to get new clients: ‘the first one’s free’. Addiction to Black Penny may become a recognised medical condition, but it won’t be because of cost – low though that is. When you finally reach the counter, you see dishes that look like those at many another coffee place: soup, sandwiches, salad, quiche, a stew, lots of baked sweet things. But when you finally sit down in the small back dining room, you realise this isn’t the stuff of two-for-a-penny cafés. The quality is high in both sweet and savoury dishes. Salads are a particular strength, with confident seasoning in the dressings and excellent assemblies of sprightly ingredients to carry them. The kitchen has a masterful pasty-maker, as we saw in both a savoury tart and a Pennsylvania-Dutch-style apple pie. They also had a good ceviche on the menu when we were there. Portions are enormous and prices eminently reasonable - £7.50 for a salad box that some people would be happy to share between two, sandwiches just under a fiver. In the food, the only downer was inelegant presentation of salad selections. The separate components were piled together so that their flavours blended in some unappealing ways: ceviche on top of couscous is never a good
Both a research institution and a fabulous museum, the NHM opened in Alfred Waterhouse’s purpose-built Romanesque palazzo on the Cromwell Road in 1881. Now joined by the splendid Darwin Centre extension, the original building still looks quite magnificent. The pale blue and terracotta façade just about prepares you for the natural wonders within. Taking up the full length of the vast entrance hall is the cast of a Diplodocus skeleton. A left turn leads into the west wing or Blue Zone, where long queues form to see animatronic dinosaurs- especially endlessly popular T rex. A display on biology features an illuminated, man-sized model of a foetus in the womb along with graphic diagrams of how it might have got there. A right turn from the central hall leads past the ‘Creepy Crawlies’ exhibition to the Green Zone. Stars include a cross-section through a Giant Sequoia tree and an amazing array of stuffed birds, including the chance to compare the egg of a hummingbird, smaller than a little finger nail, with that of an elephant bird (now extinct), almost football-sized. Beyond is the Red Zone. ‘Earth’s Treasury’ is a mine of information on a variety of precious metals, gems and crystals; ‘From the Beginning’ is a brave attempt to give the expanse of geological time a human perspective. Outside, the delightful Wildlife Garden (Apr-Oct only) showcases a range of British lowland habitats, including a ‘Bee Tree’, a hollow tree trunk that opens to reveal a busy hive. Many of the mus
Though technically an upstairs adjunct to Jason Atherton’s celebrated Social Eating House (which itself garnered a five-star review in Time Out), The Blind Pig is a worthy destination in its own right. Perhaps as a nod to its Prohibition-flavoured nickname (‘blind pig’ being US underworld slang for a good old-fashioned den of iniquity), it’s not immediately obvious how to find it at street level; look under the vintage ‘Optician’ sign for the blindfolded hog doorknocker and boom, you’re in. The decor is authentically retro but never schmaltzy; lovely touches like the antique mirrored ceiling, copper-topped bar and charmingly mismatched (yet never discordant) wooden furniture made me feel (on date night) like a wide-lapelled Capone crony painting the town with his broad. If this all sounds a little contrived and too-clever-by-half, the cocktail menu brings welcome comic relief. Who could resist a Slap ’n’ Pickle (gin, brandy and pickle brine), Kindergarten Cup (incorporating ‘Skittles-washed Ketel One’), or Robin Hood, Quince of Thieves? (brandy, quince liqueur, mead). The puns are employed with abandon, but everything I tried was ace (even, yes, Dill or No Dill). Better yet, the bar snacks are made downstairs, so the grilled baby peppers, confit pork rillettes and duck fat chips are straight-up gangster.
You almost expect fag smoke in the air and detritus on the floor of this otherwise authentic bodega in Dalston. Furanxo is primarily a wine and charcuterie shop, selling imported tins of sardines, octopus, artichokes and other colourful Spanish produce, along with speciality cheese and meats. But at the weekends, opening hours extend so hispanophiles can file in for a glass of something interesting – natural wine from niche Spanish regions. It’s already caught the attention of expats, the small room noisy with passionate Spanglish chatter, nationalities mingling over a shared love of the Andalusian bars/grocery stores (known as abacerías) which Furanxo is inspired by. An Aussie barhand talked us through the four by-the-glass wines chalked up on the wall, hamming up names and regions in a lilting accent. Glasses start at £6, and it’s tempting to work through the full fleet, though there’s more by the bottle. We sampled an effervescent and appley white from Barcelona, and a red that was rose in colour and complex in flavour. Food-wise, a cheese plate at £10 and a charcuterie board at £12 were excellent value, and without a working kitchen in this tiny space, cold plates are your lot. But the size is what makes Furanxo so authentic. Squeezing in and asserting yourself is all part of the fun.
A few years ago, the bottom of the North End Road was one of those places where you were guaranteed to get your Friday or Saturday night slice of Sodom and Gomorrah – four or five sweaty pubs rammed with Aussies, Kiwis, Saffers and students. Of course, times change: the pubs are now either closed or gentrified, the area is awash with pavement cafés and the regular revellers have moved on. Strange, then, that party-pub chain Simmons have turned up late for the, er, party. Their five-hour-long ‘happy hour’ is the honey trap but, in return, beer choice (should you take advantage) is limited, as is the range of their sickly-sweet and gimmicky cocktails. All in all? The depressing feel of a once-great bar in a long-forgotten seaside town.
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