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What can you say about this place?  Everyone seems to have had a go.

It's the place to be -  now why is that?  Let's look at some of the reasons.

It might be because they do things a bit differently here. There are no reservations.
 
It might be because YOU HAVE TO STAND ON THE STREET TO GET A PLACE.

It might be because your name gets written on a scrap of paper and hung on the back of a door until there is a space available.

It might be because the staff wear knitted things and cotton.  They look like they could finish work and not bother getting changed.

It might be because they don't call you sir or madam.

It might be because you get a really short menu without many options. 

It might be because then you don't get a plate.

Even one of these things could be incredibly annoying - put them all together and what have you got?  Actually, none of this matters.... because... and you may have heard this before on the blog.  The food is amazing - that's why we are here folks.  Not for some kind of lunchtime hug.  We are here to eat.

And actually there is something fun about the relaxed approach to dealing with customers.  And actually, the customer service is good.

Once you are in and sitting down the food is served quickly.  If they make a mistake, they sort it out.

Then they serve the main part of the menu - a burger.

They are served in a brioche, which is a bit different (unless you are a hip burger place, in which case it is almost standard).  None of that "How do you like your burger done sir?" stuff.  You get what you are given.  Which is fine in my book.  They are the experts on cooking their beef, and they know where it comes from and they do it well. 

I had a "Jose Jose" Chilli Burger with chips, which is served with lovely cheese dripping all over it and chorizo, and it gave me a big greasy smile (both literal and figurative).  The chips came with rosemary salt, although it tasted of salt.  And mysteriously, although my memory may be escaping me, coleslaw.  Didn't remember ordering that.  And also some chicken wings, titled amusingly "Winger" Winger Chicken Dinner.  Which I thought was a bit stream of consciousness really.  There is no way that the chicken could count as a dinner, unless you were tiny, or perhaps a cat.  But then, if you were a cat you wouldn't want the barbeque sauce.  But I digress.

I'll summarise the food in a bit, but let me remember the chicken wings with their silly name.  They tasted delicious.  And eating food isn't just about flavours, it is about textures too.  How they do what they do to the chicken wings is a bit of a mystery to me, but they are crispy on the outside and melt in your mouth delicious on the inside.  I spent a few happy minutes trying to work out what the flavours were that made them taste different.  They were less vinegary than a lot of chicken wings with hot sauce that you get in burger places and there was something else - harissa.  But I might have been wrong.

Burger - great.  Chips - alright.  Coleslaw - a little bit too sweet, but refreshing.  Chicken - amazing.

In summary - a good place to have lunch.  Yeah, you will see how much change I got from a tenner, but it is worth it from time to time.

Change from a tenner: -9.00

Taste: 8.5

Time out: 58 minutes

Self referential hipness: 9

 

Patty and Bun on Urbanspoon
 
 
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This is an egalitarian blog.  No lunch is off limits.

Some days, without inspiration, you just step out into the streets of opportunity and can’t think of anything to do.  


Today, that's what happens to me - In the distance, destiny moos and I hear it. 

In an apocalyptic mood, I walk into "the" middle class supermarket and look at the bank of sandwiches displayed in front of me for my middle class delectation - pretty colours, all very neat, uniformity - no imperfections.  Like some brave new world, all across the country there are about 280 branches all selling the same thing.  A brave new world of choices that are all the same.


That is not a sandwich made with love.  That is a production line.  And where do the ingredients come from?  How do each of the sandwiches taste the same as their comrades in stores around the country?

I see some baguettes and pick out a prosciutto ham, cheese, mayonnaise and salad sandwich in granary bread.  You can’t go wrong with prosciutto I think and time is marching on – I don’t want to regret leaving the decision too long and run out of my lunch hour.   I stop pondering and get on with things - in a self referential whirl I think that I can ponder this later when writing a blog post.

Back in the office, I tuck in.  Prosciutto is delicious in this sandwich.  Salad still works like salad – maybe the tomato was a bit soggy and the leaves were a bit boring.  But I’m missing the important bit here.  The dynamics of eating a sandwich made of granary bread.

Now then - granary.  Should be malty.  Not too much fibre.  But this bread is purgatory.  Any good and bad experiences my taste buds have had are neutralised by this experience.  It removes the flavour from the other ingredients.  While your taste buds are battling with the paper like flavour, the cardboard like texture and the various seeds and crumbs, the rest of the ingredients just get lost.  You have the occasional flash of delicious prosciutto and the mayonnaise does its emulsified egg magic, but really, it’s all about the cardboardesque bread.  And that is not much to be about.  The only things to look forward to were the sweet caress of two standards - Dr Pepper and some really sugary chocolate for dessert.


I like the fact that Waitrose is run a bit differently from other supermarkets with “partners” instead of staff and they sell interesting sounding ingredients.  But then it is all so sanitised.  These people sell ready-chopped garlic.  And I think that kind of sums it up for me.  It's convenient.  And that's it.  New ideas shouldn't be convenient (unless they are new ideas about convenience) .  They should be exciting, they should challenge you.  And we all go into the shop, see the exciting ingredients neatly arranged and nicely packaged, buy what we want and walk out again without getting our hands dirty and seldom thinking about it.

Waitrose is a bit like its own glossy magazine (in the case of the baguette in flavour as well as concept) – pretty, not much substance and a little bit disturbing.

Change from a tenner: 4.66

Time out: 10 mins

Taste: 5

Stepford wives: 8

 
 
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The 4th Earl of Sandwich – the epitome of a Legend in his own Lunchtime.  We all know the story from our Great British perspective.  But he wasn’t the only guy to find a convenient way to eat lunch without a plate.  We have seen how the Lebanese do it with their truncheons of deliciousness, the Mexicans with their spicy nappies, the Americans with their hamburgers, the Italians with their pani…. Oh, forget it.  I could go on and on.  What fun is a list?

Indian is the way forwards this lunchtime.  So, what do the Indians use as their sandwich?  Well, India’s a big place, but in Delhi and Bangalore, apparently it is Roti.  It’s a type of unleavened bread, and you can get it wrapped around delicious spicy food.  The guys at Mooli's have turned it into something even more amazing.  Mooli – a slightly inappropriate vegetable.  Let’s just say there are lots of other shops in Soho that sell things with a similar profile that are much less digestible.

They opened in Soho a few years ago and the queues were, quite correctly, very long.  Queues have diminished a bit since then, probably in search of the next big thing.  But the queues are wrong.  This is something that shouldn’t be turned into a passing fad.  This is Indian street food, according to the clever marketing people at Mooli.  It’s authentic.  But most importantly, it’s delicious and it’s bold.  It’s different.  No bandwagons here baby.

Marketing actually doesn’t count for much when you have amazingly tasty food.  Especially if it is named after a vegetable that looks like a bit like a knob. 

Pork , goat, paneer, choices, choices…   I went for a chicken mooli.  A staple of every sandwich was there – lettuce.  After that, well, we are not in Kansas anymore Toto.

Chicken with fenugreek.  Then some potato.  POTATO, in a wrap!  Yes, I know.  These guys don’t care.  They will put pomegranate seeds in with your pork if you’re not careful.  Sorry, I digress, POTATO, in a wrap.  Yoghurt, chickpeas, turnip.  You know what?  This is wild.  You don’t get root vegetables in a sandwich.  Or liquid dairy products.  But like the knob shaped equivalent, this is a wholly inappropriately named mooli.

And it tastes really good.  The roti has enough flavour to get past on its own.  But then the chicken, with its spices, could also probably do that.  No it couldn’t actually.  It’s a bit dry.  Then, like a white knight on a minty horse, in comes the yoghurt, to save your mouth from an arid death of spice.  Turnips crunch, chickpeas (I’m sure I saw some chickpeas in there) hang out, the potato gives it a bit of texture.  Yum.

Not much more to say... except that, actually, yes there is.  I paid a bit extra, and not only did I get a densely stuffed roti of flavour, I also got some dahl (yes, lentils really, but let’s be authentic).  With cardamom seeds I think.   And an elusive curry leaf.  Like some kind of amazingly tasty soupy accompaniment.  Actually, it wasn’t like one.  It was one (I don’t have a word count to reach here).

And the flavours?  Every time you take a bite, new combinations get you.  And they mount up.  And when you finish, you can imagine how good it feels to be slowly marinated with spices.  And even more, you don’t want it to stop.

So mooli, a rude shaped vegetable you might be, but amongst the shops selling ruder things, you should be carving out an empire.

The thing is, last time I went in here, it was almost empty, and there was a notice on the door stating they are moving premises, which I hope isn’t a euphemism.  Please people, don’t let a place like this close from lack of custom.  This is the definition of cosmopolitan.  Make this part of your lunchtime routine.  It’s immense (and as for the pork and pomegranate, well, that’s another story of love….)


Change from a tenner – 3.5

Time out – 35 minutes

Taste – 8.5

Tales of the unexpected - 8

Mooli's on Urbanspoon
 
 
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For the lunchtime wanderer, London is full of sandwich bars.  Some of them are great, most of them offer the same thing every day heated up in a dish and smeared on bread.

But halfway up Charlotte Street, on the bit that most people don’t reach, beyond the borderland bounded by Bubbledogs, you come to Italia Uno.  See if you can guess what type of food they sell.  Hint, it isn't uno.

Italian food might be based on the idea that if you get some flour, some eggs and some water then you are set for dinner.  There’s your pasta.  If you forget the eggs you can make bread.  Then you just need to find something to have with it.  Or it might not.

Italia Uno subscribes to this formula (except for the salad).

So, geographically speaking, Italia Uno and Dino’s compete for the same punters.  Italian, based in London around Charlotte Street.  But while Dino’s very much caters for the takeaway crowd, Italia Uno has lots of people who will serve you on any one of the many tiny tables surrounded by metal chairs stuffed in the place.

And they put on Italian TV.  And like football. And have music playing all the time (when there isn’t football on).  And the guy behind the counter looks permanently stressed making all the food.

How Italian.  And if you don’t like football, Italian TV or Italian music then you might think this place isn’t for you.

Here’s the best bit.  They don’t care.  Or at least, they don’t seem to.

The food gets made and given out to the masses of people (and I looked around carefully for Italian customers, just to prove the old wives tale) who frequent this place.  And everyone loves it.  Big, steaming plates of pasta, panini stuffed with things.  My sandwich, which was "picante", had spicy salami (which had a beautifully meaty texture, not unctuous like so much salami), sundried tomatoes (which were a bit astringent, but hey, I was after something picante), cucumber and lettuce (cooling) and mortadella, which helped neutralise the combinations of flavours and added more texture.  Each little bit of that sandwich worked its own magic against the white bread that it was served in.  And like each of the bits in the restaurant – the groups of people talking to each other, some in English, some Italian, some other languages; the football playing on the tv or the Italian music videos playing away; the hive of activity behind the counter as the staff carry on filling those orders; the waitresses gliding between the tables dancing with the dishes – they all do what is needed to produce a lively and exciting lunch.

Don’t expect finesse.  Don’t expect quiet and peace. 

Enjoy the food and the atmosphere and leave remembering that life can be just fun amidst all the background noise.

Change from a tenner – 5.5

Time out – 15 mins

Taste – 7.5

Joe Dolce – 3

Bar Italia Uno on Urbanspoon
 
 
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Yeah, it’s time for lunch.  In a quiet corner of the square off Goodge Street where the properly "street" food carts hang out, in the snow, is a little ray of sunshine called, completely inappropriately, Hoxton Beach Falafel.

And from there, you can get a falafel wrap.  Falafel, the very word sounds like dryness, fluffing up your mouth.  And then put in a dry wrap.  Yuck.

Right?  Well, yes, in most cases.  But in this case....

Wrong.  These guys put the elicious in delicious. Ok, they don’t actually do that, but the wraps are great.

So then pupils - falafel.  It’s like a big dollop of hummus deep fried with some extra spices and things (cumin, dill and garlic).  Most of the time in a sandwich it is dry and bland.  But not here.  These guys do it all fresh and you sometimes have to wait for a while. But it’s worth it.  Fresh fried falafel? check.  Fresh fried cauliflower? check.  Delicious pickled turnip, jalapeno peppers and parsley (unpickled obviously)?  Check.  Fluffy khubz bread and tahini sauce?  Check.  Wait, how do you make fresh fried cauliflower sexy?   Apparently they do it in Jordan all the time and eat it in their falafel wraps.

So, they ram it all in, they smash up the falafel and then tightly wrap it up into a Lebanese truncheon of falafel deliciousness, which you can take somewhere else to eat, or you could use it to hit people on the head.  Because of the heft of the falafel wrap, the latter is tempting, but I wouldn’t do that.  Mainly because it would collapse, spraying its delicious filling everywhere but in your mouth and then you would look a bit silly (although, maybe, filmed in slow motion it could look amusing).  Second because it would be a bit of a waste of money.  Third, because it is your lunch, and that is not what you do with your lunch.

There’s so much in there you might worry that it will fall apart, but no.  Like some moist magic pole of yum, this falafel wrap will do nothing to upset you (except maybe when you finish it because you want more).

Flavour?  Amazing.  Spices, herbs, pickles, chilli.  Each mouthful is a different combination of delicious flavours.  Dryness?  Almost zero.  This is one well lubed truncheon. Textures - loads of them.  Soft, hot falafel and crunchy, cold pickles.  

But wait – is there something missing?  Where’s the meat?  Forget it?  This is vegan.

What else can you say about this other place other than it has a slightly silly name for a falafel seller off Goodge Street.  And it’s delicious.  Go there.

Time out - 15 minutes

Change from a tenner - 5

Taste - 8.5

Understanding of London geography - 0

 
 
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Anything mildly amusing to add on the topic of burritos?  Little donkeys, nappies, meaty spicy bundles, mount Vesuvius of grease, street food….

Not much to add on the topic of the burrito itself.  But before you go off looking for something else to read, you will see that the words continue on this blog.  There is a bit more to say on where you get burritos from and Freebird.   They are street food and the sharp eyed may have noticed that all the burritos reviewed here before now are from shops, which are very concrete and very stationary.

Today’s burrito comes from Freebird, a stall in the burrito triangle.  Authentic street food, see?  They also have a stall in Soho and some other places.

There is usually a queue here, although service is quicker than Benito’s Hat or El Burrito.  And the other main difference?  It’s cheaper and they don’t serve the burrito with corn chips, or have any fancy drinks.  And the two guys behind the counter aren’t enthusiastically trying to get you excited about the food.  It’s no frills, but none the worse for that.

So, what are the choices?  Standard – pork, beef, chicken or vegetarian.

But the ingredients look good going into the burrito.  The refried beans are bean shaped (rather than mush), the pork looks fatty and nice, the steak has good sheen of sauce on it (not too dry).

I went for a pork burrito, handed over my fiver (plus 50p for the guacamole) and walked back to the office to consume.  And it was good.  Well, ok, it was alright.  The outdoor origin of the burrito meant that it was never really hot and was only warm when I got back to the office.  When eating it, parts of it were, in fact, cold.  But, it was easy to chew, the pork quite tender and reminded me of Brussels pate in flavour (and a little in texture too) – I think that is an achievement.  And they weren't stingy with the fillings.  There were some good spices too.  The guacamole was inoffensive (that's guacamole), the chilli sauce was chilli and quite garlicky.  But every so often there were less inviting flavours, burnt bits or something else.  It wasn’t a complete delight but when you work on the street, you take what you are given baby.  

So, not absolutely amazing.  But it was a fiver, a point worth repeating.  You can pimp up a burrito all you like with coriander rice and crème fresh and flags sticking out of it and stuff, but the simple formula doesn't cope with too much tinkering.  It becomes something else.  This was a no frills burrito. And it was cheap (relatively).  And it was no worse for that matter.  It had flavour.  Not astounding, but certainly not bad.  Somewhere to go if you only have a fiver (plus 50p for guacamole) and are in a rush.  The taste of the spices in the pork and the garlic from the chilli sauce stayed with me for most of the afternoon (in a good way).

Change from a tenner – 4.5

Time out – 10 mins

Flavour – 7.5

Mobility - 10

 
 
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Waterloo, the scene of sunsets, Somerset House, some other things and a dirty big station.  A gateway to London from the south.

It’s not so dirty anymore following what seems like an eternity of scaffolding and works.  Whereas before it had a fine selection of not much, now it has been pimped up.  For the last 6 months there has been a whole balcony of shops and restaurants, looking smart and charming with funny faux-posh sounding names - Kiehl’s, Oliver Bonas, Thomas Pink, Cabin by Corney and Barrow.

So, looming over the station concourse, high in the air, is Benugo.  It sounds like a man with a short name driving with his cheap Eastern European car, but actually it is inspired by the Big Apple (according to their website).  It looks cool with its chalk boards, open plan seating and weird framework counter all stuck on the lofty balcony looking out over the concourse.  You too can sit above all the commuters and watch them with your lunchtime sandwich.

The place advertises the fact that the cakes are made in the Benugo kitchen.  Strange – where else would they be made?  I wouldn’t boast about that.  There might be more to brag about if they were made in other people’s kitchens surreptitiously.  All the cakes in Benugo today were made in KFC’s kitchen, or the Ritz’s, or Starbucks’.  Kitchen roulette!

But stop already.  Back to the lunch.  It sounds exciting.  A San Pellegrino with orange (very continental).  And a New Yorker (now I am cosmopolitan).  Smoked turkey, crispy bacon, Gruyere cheese, Dijon mustard, tomato and lettuce on caraway bread.  Yum.  Freshly made since 11am this morning, whatever that means. Was it freshly made at 11, or did they make it to order?

Don’t know.  But it was hot.  Which was quite nice.  And weighty, which is what you want when you are hungry.  And the ingredients had just been put in, also nice. 

Yet it didn’t taste of caraway.  It didn’t taste very much of Dijon mustard.  It didn’t taste very much of anything.  And the bacon wasn’t crispy.  And the open plan restaurant, with minimal walls, meant the wind and pigeons soared around me and threatened my hot sandwich.

Everyone’s a critic.  In some ways, it was actually quite nice.  I could feel some of the different textures.  It was comforting.  The weight was assuring.  It gave the impression to my tongue that there was going to be some flavour.  It just never quite got there.  And actually, watching pigeons swooping over the tables was quite novel, if a little disconcerting.

There were lots of exciting smells coming from the kitchen.  There was a delicious roast pork oozing delight waiting to be carved.  The layout of the place looked exciting.  Looming over the formic commuters below was exciting (yeah, look it up).  The massive clock hanging from the roof in front of the balcony was exciting.   Even the pigeons were exciting.

I wanted it all to be exciting, but the sandwich, like the staff who served me, seemed to be somewhere else.  Somewhere that wasn’t exciting.  Somewhere a bit morose.  So I tried to remember the word for ant-like and imagined the unsmiling staff clandestinely using other people’s kitchens as I munched on my warm, heavy but less than delicious sandwich.  And felt the wind whipping at my nose.

So, almost top marks for setting (just a bit too cold and pigeony) and the food was quite cheap and filling and much better than some of the other attempts at food I have tried at a station.  Which is almost a recommendation.

Change from a tenner – 3.75

Time out – 20 mins

Taste – 6.5

Giant clock and pigeons - 9



 
 
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Tragically hip.  After dealing with the less than romantic Byron, I saw this place opening up not far from the office.

In the spirit of adventure I thought meh.  But Twitter was doing it's job as the messaging service of hip young things and I began to get a bit excited about it.  I decided to go.

I got there early to beat the queues.  But there weren't any.

Fair dos though.  This was the first proper day of opening and hip young things don't get out of bed before 12.  They were probably all still looking for their socks draped over a lampshade.

So I had the choice of seats bar one place, which actually had an early riser hip young thing sitting there.  And he looked very happy.

I looked at the menu and began to be very happy.  Beside the burgers, there were buffalo wings with blue cheese sauce, lobster rolls, hotdogs (beef and pork), beers.  I could have sat there all day looking at the menu.

But in this intrepid undertaking I need to do some eating, so girded by my memories of all the delicious burgers I have eaten, I ordered a House Burger, House Fries and a Coca Cola.

The House Burger is an interesting creation, with cheese, bacon and horseradish.  Unusual.

So I order it from the beaming waitress and sit there, looking around for things that are achingly hip.  I look at the fairly straightforward seating, the fairly straightforward condiments (Heinz Ketchup, Tabasco and French's Mustard if you want to know).  I look at the people coming and going into the kitchen, with stacks of till rolls balanced on their arms while trying to answer a mobile phone.  I listen to the achingly hip music - Sugar Hill Gang, Tone Loc, Quincy Jones.  My kind of music.

My food turned up - a good looking burger and the standard for a hip place - an enamel tray containing chips.  The chips were good.  Not soggy, a bit salty.  I bit into the burger and angels sang.

Ok, they didn't really, but it was a good experience.  The horseradish may have been a little on the light side, but the beef was lubed up by the fat, the bacon was sweet and delicious, the cheese added sweetness and a sense of coherence  and the bun did its things admirably, delivering the whole concoction from the plate to my mouth with minimal fuss (and it kept my fingers clean).

Thirteen students turned up, looking excited for their lunch.  The people working at Burger and Shake were accommodating.  As I sat there, satisfied, munching on my burger, I considered the place that was so hip I almost had trouble fitting into my seat.  I was comfy, the music was cool, the food was delicious and the people were nice.

Some restaurants and cafes make their names from cool stuff and forget that they are actually meant to be providing food that tastes nice.  Getting people in the door is one thing.  Getting them out again with a satisfied smile is another.

Burger and Shake succeeds on both counts.  Yes, every man and his dog at the moment seem to be getting excited about pop-ups, new burger restaurants or another burger concept, but in the grand scheme of things a burger is a simple idea and done well it can be something to smile about.  And when I got the bill, I didn't mind that it was more than a tenner and the Coca Cola cost £2.25 (well, actually the Cola does seem a little steep).

Burger and Shake, I will be back to work my way through the menu.  And have a shake, which makes up the other 33.3% of your name and probably won't cost much more than the Cola.

Change from a tenner - 0

TIme out - 50 mins

Taste - 8

Hippy shake - 0 (next time)

Burger & Shake on Urbanspoon
 
 
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Byron Burger - every street you turn down you will see a new one popping up, with its simple hamburgers mantra.

Few frills, but the punters keep coming in, like this is the best thing since a sliced bun.

And to be fair, when it started 5 years ago it was a pretty good thing.  Variety  in UK burgers was the sort of thing you got in a Happy Meal.  The coolest place you could eat a burger was Burger King in Leicester Square.  I would love someone to tell me different.

OK, maybe that is a bit unfair on some of the pioneers of a gourmet burger.  I still have fond memories of Grubs in Brighton from 1980, but Byron’s gave a bit more choice to a dull selection.

So, you walk into the restaurant on Rathbone Place, formerly a pub, and you order a burger.  They ask you how you want it done.  Rare, medium rare, medium, etc, etc – you get the idea.  Now, I am not an expert in cooking beef and I don’t know what goes into these patties so I don’t think I am the best person to ask how it should be cooked.

I always take the safe option – medium.  And take away.  This time I went for a stilton burger.  The pungent taste of the stilton would get rid of the stale taste in my mouth.  Or so I thought.

I drooled back to the office with what I thought would be my happy meal.  As I walked I considered the weight of what was in the bag, and it wasn’t that much.  I got back to the office, sat down and unpacked for a quick slice between the buns and some fries.

It was all a little cold.  But I didn’t ask for insulation, I just wanted a takeaway burger.  And then I ate it.

No great shakes.  In fact, I didn’t order a shake, so that perhaps shouldn’t have surprised me.  But there was nothing special.  In fact it was a little bit dry.  The bun was quite nice.  Unobjectionable in texture and flavour – it allowed me to hold everything together, the blue cheese was obviously feeling a little sad and had no flavour.  It was pretty inoffensive.  You could even call it simple.

The problem with good food is that you can’t please everyone.  Some people don’t try and accept that there is a large part of the country that aren’t going to touch their delicious dish with a barge-pole, but they cook the tripe and ricotta on toast anyway.   Maybe the burger is a proposition that is too simple, and it is not possible to produce something that is going to get your taste buds going, get your brain working on the flavours, get your senses stimulated.

But wait, that’s not true anymore.  A Grizzley Bear with bacon jam anyone from Burger Bear?   A dead-hippy burger from Meat Liquor?  The Smoky Robinson from Patty and Bun?

I paid more than a tenner for this bad boy with fries, and I want a little something other than a bit of mastication.  Sorry Byron, this is better than MacDonalds, but it’s no Don Juan.

Change from a tenner - minus 70p

Time out - 15 mins

Taste - 7

Romance - 3

Byron on Urbanspoon
 
 
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Artisan, the sign reads.  Artisan, the website reads.  Exciting!  Something new.  None of this stuff you get in Pret, where I imagine it is churned out.

I walk in for a sandwich and a delicious drink, hoping to see something different.  And I do.  Oh yes.  This is a free-form café.  There is no real counter here.  There aren’t any shelves lined along the walls.  Stuff is piled onto surfaces.  There are seats and tables scattered around what looks like the outside of the central island of stuff, filling the gaps between the central counter and the seemingly numerous people looking… well, I wasn’t too sure what they were looking.  They could have been looking at the food or they could have been looking bemused about where they were meant to find food or looking where they were meant to pay for it or looking where they were meant to sit down.

Nothing is clear here.  Perhaps that is the artisan nature of Gail’s, one of the few bakeries that gets named as making excellent bread.  Seduced by reputation and perhaps caught up in the confusing whirlwind of romance, I fall into line.  I grab the first thing that takes my fancy - perhaps a little vulnerable, a little bit lost. I order a goat’s cheese and salami baguette and a coffee and stand where I think the queue is.  The girl on one side of the island of actually pretty ordinary looking food has a till in front of her and takes my money.  She gives me a free apple.

I go and sit down, waiting for some kind of epiphany, some kind of orgy of artisan flavours and artisan sensations from a place that promises so much artisan.

I find somewhere to sit surprisingly easy – maybe there is artistry in the design of the table and chair I sit at.  I eat my artisan goat’s cheese and salami baguette.  I appreciate the artisan tang of the goat’s cheese and the artisan smoky flavour of the salami.  I admire the artisan baguette, which is artisanly crusty and unyielding.  My artisan coffee arrives eventually.  Tut, artists!  They are always late!

And that’s it.  The artisan baguette tasted of bread, and the artisan goat’s cheese was tangy (like goat’s cheese), and the artisan salami was smoky (like salami).  The table was a table, the chair was a chair and the coffee was a coffee.

I am not the first man who has been promised so much by a lady with an apple, but I seem to remember he got a bit more from his encounter.  I suspect that the artisan Gail’s might be the kind of artist who charms their way into your life with a promise, keeps you hot in a whirlwind of hope and desire and then suddenly they have left you heartbroken and unfulfilled.  In exactly the same situation you were before you found them.  And then you find that tenner you had stashed away for an emergency has gone as well.  And then later in the afternoon you find that you are still hungry.

Change from a tenner – 1.8

Time out – 25 minutes

Taste - 6

Artisanal - 8