25 July 2012

Seeking America - MEATliquor

Sometimes it happens and there's just nothing you can do about it.  A new club, restaurant or venue opens and everyone proclaims it to be the greatest of its kind, ever. It's happened before while I've been here and no matter how much I and others have said the other location is by far more superior and more authentic, the establishment with all the marketing money comes off as being the better venue of its trade.

This, I feel, is the story of MEATliquor.

I went during a weeknight, immediately after work - no problem with the queues that everyone keeps going on about. Don't show up past 7, or don't leave it to be a Friday night meal.  Obviously that's when all the eager trendy people start flocking to what they only heard was the next best thing.  I got there around 6.30 or so and it was fine.  Get in, have a few drinks (and by few I mean 1 - £4 for a small can of beer, £9 for a mason jar of what was effectively a margarita) and browse over the menu.

Don't be upset that you can't see the menu on the website, that's just part of MEATliquor's disappointing charm to get people wanting more.  They have 4 or 5 different burgers and a few other American type sandwiches.  I went for a Philly Cheesesteak, because again, I'm craving all things that I never ate that often at home, and as always the boyfriend went for the thing that I would otherwise get if I wasn't skeptical of the place (a burger).  We also had wings as a starter.

MEATliquor - Hot Wings

MEATliquor - Philly Cheesesteak, burger, fries

The Good: those hot wings were pushing on hot, so that was good.  French fries were pretty tasty.

The Bad: I have never, in my life, seen a Philly Cheesesteak look like that. I didn't realise it was OK to just pass off steak as mince meat (ground beef).  I must have missed that memo. And FFS that's an ungodly amount of green peppers. I pulled about 1/3 of them out but there were still too many to find the actual meat section of this sandwich, making the peppers really over powering.  

With the wings, though it was labelled as bleu cheese dip, I know they just went out and bought some ranch dressing. Don't mess with me and these wings, world!

So I feel the cheesesteak served is one of those 'Expectation/Reality' moments. I was expecting something closer to below
mmmmm I miss steak-umms
Notice the thin slices, not chuck ground beef.


The Interesting: All this being said, it is an interesting venue to look at inside. I'm not really sure why they painted it the way they did. It looks like a cross between a slaughter house, and the house of someone that wants to slaughter people.  Weird scribbles on the wall, red drips of paint everywhere, very odd.

The Worse: Normally if I have a part of my meal that I didn't enjoy, at least I know the bf has enjoyed his. In his words, 'It was alright, but nothing worth queuing for'.

And there you have it. 

As we left the building, a queue that did not exist only 2 hours prior was indeed wrapping around the block on a weeknight and we were half tempted to tell them it wasn't worth it.  But there wouldn't be any point, the media monkey has turned his tricks and enough people are intrigued by the place to keep it in business for a while.  Maybe that'll give them enough time to suss out what American food is, and I'll try the standard any-country burger instead of the American 'delicacy' next time.

MEATliquor can be found at:

74 Welbeck Street
W1G 0BA

Nearest Tube: 
Bond Street

MEATliquor on Urbanspoon
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24 July 2012

Seeking America - The Diner

I could probably count on one hand the amount of times I went to Bdubs to eat some hot wings back in Ohio.  I actually really hate them. I'm far too OCD to want to have a meal that constantly requires you to wipe your hands and face - or so I thought.

With it being Freedom Month July and me being homesick, I've turned to craving something I didn't even eat that often at home.  I'm not sure how this works! Who would have thought that those sauces I once dished out to wing-hungry patrons would be all I could ever ask for?

Buffalo Wild Wings' delicious range of sauces

I've realised, that even while some places claim to sell 'hot wings' they're really offering mild wings.  I've even found myself pouring tabasco sauce hoping they'll at least smell like they're hot! I don't know where this wing monster inside of me has come from, but it's been on a mission.

I went to the The Diner not once, but TWICE in one week to get my American fix.  Day 1 I tested out their hot wings, which came with the ever essential bleu cheese dip, and also ordered - get this, a chilli cheese dog.  HAHAHA!! ME? Eating a whole chilli cheese dog?  Yes, I damn well did! The amount of times I complained to people for liking Skyline Chili and I turn around and eat this beast? It's insane.

The Diner - Hot Wings

The Diner - Chili Cheese and Bacon Dog

The Good: FINALLY a real hot dog bun!! So soft and sweet, I've missed you.  Also, crispy bacon on a chili dog? That's some Man v Food action there.  Also, the bleu cheese dip was to die for.
The Bad: Who in their right mind breads hot wings? I was so disappointed as I have no bigger food phobia of eating things that make a mess, than I do of things that are breaded and then made soggy by a sauce.  They also weren't hot (as in spicy). But I ate them and I was satisfied enough from the seriously OTT hot dog in front of me.

The second time around, I figured I could trust the place for breakfast.  

The Diner - Lumberjack Breakfast

Fluffy pancakes: check
Served with heaps of bacon and scrambled eggs: check
Powdered sugar: sweet check
Filtered Coffee: check
Maple Syrup: served in a small pot that you pump fastfood ketchup in to - fail!

Once I was able to get the staff's attention again I did get more syrup, but honestly, you can't serve me pancakes that look like that and then syrup that I can lap up with one lick.  That being said, The Diner gets the biggest points from me for being as close to home as the so-called American chains in London get.  I was very impressed, very full and always left with a very happy taste in my mouth.

The Diner - Camden can be found at:

2 Jamestown Road
Camden Town
NW1 7BY
http://www.goodlifediner.com/

Nearest Tube: Camden Town

The Diner (Camden) on Urbanspoon
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23 July 2012

Seeking Dance - Swing Dancing at Stern Hall

There's only one thing I miss from home as much as I miss the food, and it's dancing.  I spent my last few years in Ohio learning and teaching ballroom dance.  Some of my friends have even gone on to be dance teachers, and I envy that they're able to do what we all love so much, every day.

Super awesome UK visa laws say that I'm only allowed to work in my main profession so I can't work my 9 - 5 and then teach dance on the weekends in a local gym. Irritating, but I suppose I shouldn't be trying to 'take' anyone's job that they're definitely 'qualified' for. 

Taking jobs. Yea, OK.

Anyhow, occasionally I do find small ways to feel closer to home.  One way was when a friend from work invited me to a swing dance night!

Jitterbugs at Stern Hall

I imagine it's the same in every city. There's a group of dancers and once you know them, they seem to be the only group you see.  It was so much easier at home because most of my friends were dance friends, whilst I only know 2 dancers here.  It seemed no different with the Jitterbug bunch, most of whom seemed to know each other quite well!

If you're a first time dancer they do lessons at both beginner and intermediate levels every Wednesday from 7pm.   It's definitely worth a go, if not for the dancing at least for the very retro atmosphere and interesting people that you can meet.  The woman in the image below is a 'couture milliner'! piphackett.co.uk 


After all of the lessons have ended, the grand dancehall becomes an open dance session where you can try out your new moves with anyone you choose to lead you.  It's amazing how universal the language of dance is. While I may have learned how to Lindy in a small dark room in Columbus, Ohio, the 65+ year old man in London was twirling and whirling me as if we'd been dance partners for years.  Dance is a beautiful thing.




My only bit of advice: bring a spare top and prepare to sweat.  It is insanely hot in this room, and kicking up a few steps does not help at all. 


Stern Hall can be found out:

West London Synagogue
33 Seymour Place
W1H 5AU

Nearest Tube: Marble Arch

Class prices vary, from £6


Seeking America - The Breakfast Club


It should be no surprise to most of my readers that I'm getting a bit homesick this year. I've hinted at the fact that I'm in a bit of limbo with being able to go home, and made it a mission to find as many milkshake, burger and breakfast joints I could it seems.  I suppose it's only natural. The end of August marks the last time I saw my family in 3 years, and 09SEP marks the last time I was on American soil in 3 years.  Even I, the least American, American on this side of the pond, crave some of the simpler things from back home.

One sunny Sunday afternoon, I made my way over to Angel in hopes of finding a little slice of home at The Breakfast Club.  Nicely tucked away just behind the high street and on a narrow alley of boutique shops, I found a queue stretching the length of the alley and then some.  I'd finally arrived to one of the most talked about breakfast stops in London.

Wait time was about 30 - 45 minutes, which probably could have been cut down if the waiting staff had a better seating system.  But to expect customer service like that, I would really need to head back to the States as I'm more likely to discover a new element than receive decent customer service here.

Oddly enough, once seated I didn't ask for a plate of pancakes, smothered in maple syrup and at least 6 strips of bacon on the side.  My boyfriend did however, which left me to judge them without being disappointed that the pancakes weren't prepared in a way that any John Hughes character would have expected.

The good news: the pancakes and the bacon were right on target - fluffy pancakes, crispy bacon.
The bad news: it wasn't nearly enough.  At about £8, for 2 things on the plate, it left a lot to be desired. Why this country doesn't understand the beauty of sides, I will never understand.  If there were some eggs, and a small pot(bowl) of summer fruit as well, we'd be in business.

I was hardcore craving some eggs, so I went for Eggs Florentine and a cup of tea. Not very American after all but very nice all the same.

The Breakfast Club - Eggs Florentine

The Breakfast Club - a cuppa

The eggs were more than filling (I couldn't finish them!), which is what I was going for, and cost about the same price as the pancakes - which I would've finished, and would've wanted more to go with it.  I definitely recommend heading to the Breakfast Club, as it makes for a perfect Sunday brunch location.   Just be prepared to shell out a few more ££ if you were looking for a real American breakfast experience.

The Breakfast Club - Angel can be found at:

31 Camden Passage
Angel
N1 8EA
http://www.thebreakfastclubcafes.com

Nearest Tube: Angel

Breakfast Club on Urbanspoon
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22 July 2012

London 2012 - The home stretch

We've tried to hide from it and we've taken a 'wait until it happens' approach in preparing for it, but this week, there's no denying it:  The Olympics are definitely coming, and for the most part are here.

I participated in my first Olympic Event this Saturday as I watched the torch run through Stoke Newington.  In true British fashion, few people knew what was happening at Clissold Park that day and of those that did, no one knew from which direction the torch would come - not even the organisers.  Standard.

The planned Olympic Torch Hackney route - day 64

The path in Clissold Park, moments before the torch was meant to arrive.

Nonetheless, I had a 6 second window, where I was able to see what people around the world will symbolise as the light of the Games and triumph for their countries. And I suppose that's pretty cool.

The Olympic Torch on Green Lanes

The parade of official Olympic money-givers


As this is the first work week with the torch in London, I'll be preparing myself for the herds of tourists and ticket holders aimlessly roaming my streets. Early morning rises, long walks home - mostly all transport related really. With some luck I'll be able to catch the Opening Ceremony at one of London's open parks, capacity permitting. But that's it, this is the Great British Summer we've all been asked to partake in - Ready. Steady. Go.

02 July 2012

Seeking Music - Converse Represent

You ever have one of those days where something you knew nothing about just keeps popping up everywhere? That's what happened to me on my way home today when all of a sudden everything I saw was telling me about Converse Represent.



It seems that despite the ridiculous amount of Olympic themed things dominating London for the rest of the 'summer', Converse have managed to knock out a mini festivals of sorts in a venue I've been meaning to tick off my gig list, the 100 Club.

Much like the iTunes festival, it's free - so you select which artists you'd like to see, you're put into a drawing and notified if you snapped up a pair of tickets 2 weeks before the event.  I've already put in my entry so fingers crossed, but I doubt I'll be so lucky!  With artists like SBTRKT, Santigold, Django Django, Best Coast, Paul Weller etc etc, I think they'll be hard to win.

See the full lineup and enter here:

http://play.converse.co.uk/2012/06/represent-lineup/

01 July 2012

Seeking Markets - Angel and Whitechapel

*This post is about 2 months delayed due to some very bad relationship management from a sponsor.  Therefore, this post is not sponsored.* 

What happens to the streets of London that are normally filled with commuters making their way into Central London or The City on the weekend? Markets, that's what.

I finally walked through Chapel Market in Angel in my beautiful borough of Islington (I don't think I will ever live in another borough!!).  Chapel Market has beautiful fruits and veg, various bits and bobs of jewellery, shoes, clothes and...bed mattresses? It's borderline car boot sale mixed with a farmers' market and simply good for a wander. What's even better is that this is a short walk, bus or tube ride away from King's Cross.





Sometimes I get a bit sad when I walk through King's Cross or anywhere else in Central and realise that this is the only London that most tourists get to know. There is SO MUCH outside of Zone 1 to see.  When I came here as a tourist I hated London, it seemed like any other big city.  But after living here, I've discovered that there are so many mini-cities in London - it's not what a tourist sees at all.

I like to play a game when I walk/take the bus through London where I 'unlock' levels on the map (hint at my geeky gamer girl past). There's a fork in the road at King's Cross where Caledonian Road takes you North and Pentonville Road takes you North East and straight to Angel.  Once I connected those points, I realised London was a lot easier to navigate without the restrictions of the Tube map.

I later travelled on to Whitechapel to visit some friends, which required me unlocking the Angel to Old Street and Old Street/Liverpool St/Brick Lane (thanks to many a drunken night) to Whitechapel portions of the map. :)

As I normally only go there at night before heading out, I'd never seen the high street at full force. It's decorated with a massive street market in what appears to not even be London anymore save for the shiny Gherkin poking its head above the street signs.



What about you - how do you like to discover cities you visit? 

For the Londoners - which levels of the map have you unlocked? :) 

Swimming with this Mermaid