Regina G Beach

The only constant is change.

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London Bar Roundup 1

The Jugged Hare

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The Jugged Hare in Barbican is worth a stop in just to check out the vast array of taxidermied animals displayed around the bar. A huge stag head is visible from the street where it hangs on the wall. But inside there are a dozen or so hare heads mounted on wood between the bar and the restaurant where most meats were sourced with a 12 gauge are served so be careful of the shot in the main dishes. Above the bar, a glass case displays a mink, ducks, fox, fish and other curiosities. The service is mediocre. The bar tender poured my drink and took my money but didn’t give me my drink from the tap, but it’s worth a wander in for a pint. 

Youngs

It’s not every day that a brewery turned 188 years old, or in this case young. Youngs brewery has been turning out lagers and mild stouts since 1831. Craig and I passed a bar that was celebrating the birthday with balloons, a piñata and a free pint of Youngs for everyone who downloaded the Youngs on Tap app, so that’s just want we did. You can’t compete with free. The Fox and Anchor is one of over 50 pubs that serve Youngs in London, so you’ll have your pick when their 189th birthday party rolls around next September. 

The Artful Dodger

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The Artful Dodger in on Royal Mint St. in Shadwell. It’s a classic spit and sawdust boozer, painted green to match the name of the street and sits across from a tube tunnel where trains submerge and re-emerge above ground. When I walked in to meet Craig’s friend Sam, who was also working in London for the day, I was the only woman in the bar. I had a half pint of cider for £2 which seemed like a good price by London standards. A dart league plays there and there’s free wifi, and a patio. Not a bad place for a cheap drink at all. 

The Craft Beer Co.

On the other end of the pay scale is The Craft Beer Co., which, like the name suggests is a craft ale house. Craig and I got sours that ran us £8 and £7 respectively. His was a delicious lemonade sour and mine was coconut. Astroturf and bunting decorate the patio, which is strewn with half kegs as end tables. A fun splurge for one, but you wouldn’t want to make a session out of it. 

The Eagle

The Eagle is a gastro pub in Farringdon with mismatched furniture, an ever changing menu and a great selecting of craft and traditional ales on tap. Somehow for the second day in a row the beer I wanted was out and they had to change the keg, but the service was speedy getting me a drink in their promised 2 minutes. I’d go back for food. 

Goose Island Brewpub

The Stats: Goose Island

What we ordered

To Drink: Two beers each
• Thirty Watermelons sour
• Midway IPA
• Fog Bowl 

To Eat: 16” pizza to share
• Aubergine with baby tomato, red onion, chimichurri, barbecue sauce

Cost: £40

After visiting London in the 1980s, John Hall was inspired by the craft beer he had sampled in the Big Smoke and decided to set up his own craft beer operation in 1988 in Lincoln Park, Chicago and named the brewery after a nearby island.

Goose Island has been a driving force in the craft beer revolution and now boasts brewpubs in in Toronto, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai, Monterey, Mexico, Philadelphia and since the closing of their Balham brewpub, right here in the Shoreditch neighborhood.

The bar itself has a number of different seating options depending on whether you are breezing through for a swift one or dining in a group. It seems to be a favourite for after work groups to sample their wide selection of taps and their fanatics 16” sharing pizzas. The brewery lies behind a wall of windows in the back of the pub cranking out Goose IPA, Shoreditch Porter and Golden Goose among other classic and new recipes. 

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The taps are always on rotation and sampling before buying is common, they usually hold a few guest taps alongside the Goose Island staples and specials. On this occasion we opted for a Midway IPA and a Thirty Watermelons sour. The iconic goose-headed taps plucked strait from Chicago was a welcome sight for Gina who got to feel a bit of her mid-west roots among the Windy City skyline murals and giant Chicago flag painted onto the brick wall opposite the bar. 

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We met Gina’s friend Starlynn, a Chicago native and transplant to London. She was surprised to hear that there a Goose Island had opened in London less than a year ago and was excited to check out the vibe. 

You must not visit Goose Island without sampling one their gigantic sharing pizzas.  Crispy this bases are the order of the day, supported by a range of traditional and experimental toppings. Being with Starlynn who is vegetarian, we tried the Aubergine pizza with barbecue sauce, fresh tomatoes and red onion. The star of the show was by far the chimichurri sauce which was splashed liberally over the dish adding elements of contrasting color and explosions of fresh spicy flavour, lifting the palette from the sweetened of the caramelised onion and red tomatoes with a citrus and coriander twist.   Easily enough for 3 people, their sharers also offer great value in both quality and quantity.

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The pizzas are cooked in a brick oven on the premises and while we opted for thin-crust there are Chicago-style deep dish pies on the menu as well as small plates including wings, fires, chicken strips and mac’n cheese. 

Located in a prime spot on the high street and with a range of flexible options, don’t plan it, just drop in and enjoy. 

The Infamous Randy’s Wings Bar 

The Stats: Randy’s Wing Bar

What we ordered
To Drink: Two beers and two cocktails
• Freedom Four Lager
• Freedom Four IPA on tap
• Two Hennessy and Ginger’s 

To Eat: 6 wings each and two sides to share
• Casablanca Wings - Harissa infused, slow cooked and grilled with sumac onions, honey, pomegranate seeds and mint dressing
• Gangnam Wings- Korean inspired, friend, sweet and sticky
• Pickled salad with carrots, cucumbers and cauliflower
• Bacon Dust Fries- with lime, tabasco mayo, spring onions and chives. 

Cost: £45
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Established in 2013, Randy’s has two London locations serving up wings, burgers and fries with a side of blues. On Thursdays live music from 7-9 p.m. is accompanied by a 4 pound Hennessy special cocktail. Well-lit and tasteful decorated with plants and wood paneling (and a less than tasteful Washington Redskins ski cap), Randy’s is best for smaller groups. We had five and our fifth was siting on a stool drawn up to the end of the table. It’s advisable to book ahead for Thursday’s live music because the seats fill up and it’s not a huge space. 

There are seven styles of wings on Randy’s menu. I love a good wing. I know they’re a cheap cut of meat that are often more mess and work than the few bites of meat on them are worth but they’re also a novelty that’s just as much about the sauce as the wing itself. Far from their Buffalo, New York roots, I tried to manage my expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Buffalo wings were “invented” in 1964 at Anchor Bar when Theressa Bellissimo prepared deep-fried wings for her son Dominic and his friends.  He added them to the bar menu and eventually went on the road to promote the new food and sell hot sauce. While I’ve never been to Anchor Bar, the buffalo wings at Randy’s are as spicy and flavorful as those at any American sports bar I’ve been to. 

What was fun about Randy’s were the unusual flavors on the menu. I ordered the gangnam style Korean wings dusted with peanuts and green onions and slathered in a sweet Korean barbecue sauce. The real stand out winner though were Craig’s Casablanca wings. Having spent a few weeks in Morocco this summer and not seeing a single stand-alone chicken wing, I was skeptical. The flavor explosion of harissa, onions, pomegranate, honey and mint was wonderful and put the mediocre bacon fries to shame. 

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It was the music, even more so than the food, that I thought made Randy’s special. Craig had dined here solo a few weeks ago when a guitarist and harmonica player were performing. This week a guitarist was singing old blues standards next to the bar and a small platform greeting new diners as they enter. The music was great, easy to listen to and ended too soon for my liking.

I would recommend attending on blues Thursdays, the music and Hennessy on anger ale really ties together an otherwise simple but satisfying dining experience.

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DF Tacos 

The Stats: DF Tacos

What we ordered:

To Drink: Two beers 
• LOBA NEGRA 5.5% Porter style ale brewed by Cerveza Loba
• 750 IPA 6.7% American style IPA from Propaganda Brewing

To Eat: 6 tacos and a plate of nachos to share
• Classic Taco Board Grilled chicken. Pork pibil. Chile beef
• Choirzo Nachos- Tortilla chips. Pinto Beans. Cheese sauce. Sour cream. Avocado salsa. Mexican style sriracha. Pink pickled onions, Trealy Farm soft chorizo

Cost £38

Craig works in a beautiful modern office in Shoreditch. I came to visit him at the end of the day, take a tour and hang out on the rooftop to soak up the sun while summer mercifully lingers into late September. I drank a Brew Dog Elvis Juice from the office fridge, met Huxley the office golden labradoodle and admired the reclaimed wooden floors and office ping pong table. 

When Craig finished up for the day he suggested a Mexican place around the corner he had been to once before. Tacos are one of my favorite foods and I’m relieved that Europe has finally caught on to the glory of Mexican cuisine. DF, short for District Federal, the old name for Mexico City, has two London locations and packs a punch. 

Orders and payment are taken at kiosks in the front of the restaurant giving the vibe of a hybrid fast causal meets counter service. We toyed with the idea of ordering two tacos a piece but then changed out minds and went huge with a 6-taco classic taco board. I had a Mexican porter, which I didn’t know existed as cerveza tends toward the lager side of beers. Craig got a Mexican-brewed American-style IPA which he was drinking in England to maximize the international nature of it al. 

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We started out with a plate of chorizo nachos and they were some of the best nachos I’ve ever eaten. Expertly arranged chips in a low mound ensured the toppings were evenly distributed on the tortilla chips. There wasn’t actually any cheese on the nachos, which at first seemed strange but the replacement cheese sauce wasn’t stringy and melded well with the beans, onions and greasy, delicious chorizo. 

DF has a variety of sauces including a salsa verde, yellow habanero, a fiery red sauce and Valentino hot sauce for those who’s rather stick with the tried and true than try the house varieties. I was partial to the salsa verde and habanero. Craig is a glutton for punishment and enjoyed the fiery red salsa the best. We had practically licked the nacho plate clean when a waiter set down a corrugated metal tray with six tacos wedged between each V. At that moment the fire alarm started blaring and 50 eyes of the patrons turned toward the waiter awaiting directions. 

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No one moved. No one got up. No one even looked particularly worried about the red lights and siren. We waited it out and eventually the alarm turned off and everyone went back to their meals. Maybe it was a false alarm or some smoke in the kitchen or a drill. We’ll never know but I’m glad we didn’t have to abandoned our tacos and exit the building. 

There were two each of chunky grilled chicken (the least inspiring of the bunch, it would have been easier to eat and likely more delicious if it was shredded,) pork pibil and my favorite Chili beef. They came in white flour tortillas, which I said was inauthentic but Craig didn’t seem to have any qualms about it. A few weeks ago I was out for tacos with my parents and called my mom a gringa for specially ordering flour tortillas. Our waiter nearly had a heart attack from laughing so much. 

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Each taco came topped with cabbage, cilantro and fabulous salsas. The pork had achiote & citrus marinade, pickled onions and sour cream. The beef had ancho chile marinade, avocado salsa, crema and melted cheese. The chicken had habanero & pumpkin seed salsa. 

DF works with British farmers and suppliers like the South Devon Chilli farm, which supplies hot peppers, the Trealy Farm where the fabulous chorizo was sourced, and Belu water, which is a non-profit water filtration and bottling company working towards clean water.

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DF is a lively place serving great tacos for a reasonable price, prompt service great portion sizes are the order of the day.   I wouldn’t list it as a special occasions dining venue but for fast casual dining as a couple a small group it serves its purpose with style and finesse.


Berber and Q Shawarma Bar

The Stats: Berber and Q Shawarma Bar

What we ordered:

To Drink: Two beers 
• Grains of Paradise Pale Ale created for the bar in London • Beruit Pilsner from Lebanon 

To Eat: an appetizer, a hummus, a side and 3 mezzes with pitta and bread to share
• Spiced Jaffa Olives 
• Iraqi Hummus with fried aubergine, amba, boiled eggs
• Cauliflower Shawarma
• Beetroot, whipped feta, hazelnuts
• Babaganoush, muhammara, walnuts 
• Ground lamb, black lime, tehina

Cost: ‎£53

After a week in Bristol, I took the MegaBus to London. It’s going to be my home for the next few months while Craig is on a work assignment there. My first night in London, my new city and what feels like a new chapter in our relationship, I met Craig at our hotel bar. I had walked from the District Blackfriar’s Tube stop and was tired and hungry. I had one of my favorite ciders: Swedish Rekorderlig Strawberry and Lime. I first tried Rekorderlig last May during our houseboat week on the Norfolk Broads and they do not disappoint. 

After taking my stuff up and changing into something more presentable than the teeshirt and leggings I wore on the bus, we waked over to Exmouth Market in Islington. The pedestrian-friendly street is teeming with hip restaurants, pubs, coffee houses and shops. Craig had his eye set on Berber and Q Shawarma Bar and it ended   being one of the best meals we’ve ever eaten together. 

The bar is tiled in white with “shawarma” and bowls of food written on the tiles in dry erase marker. The new Berber and Q cookbook is on sale at the bar for 25 quid. We had to wait a few minutes for a table and then got seated at the bar where we could watch the magic in the making cocktails with house-made vermouth and delicious eats. 

The cocktail and wine list are more extensive than the limited beer offerings. The Grains and Paradise ale with ginger and cardamom beat the listlessness of the Beirut lager (the middle east is not known for craft ale and I should have known better.) The Grains of Paradise is brewed in London and was created especially for Berber and Q. It’s delicious. 

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One of the waiters sported a shirt in Helvetica reading: Disco and techno and deep house and Berber and Q. The soundtrack of house music enhanced the trendy vibe we felt as soon as we walked in. The momentum carried us through the olives which arrived first and through the mezze, or middle eastern salads, that made up the bulk of our meal. 

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Berber and Q Shawarma Bar opened in the summer of 2016 as a companion restaurant to the Berber and Q Grill House, which opened in 2015, brain children of chef Josh Katz. Our waiter strongly urged us to order the cauliflower shawarma and it was hands down the best cauliflower dish either of us has ever eaten. Grilled, yet still firm, the quarter head of veg is seasoned to perfection with four different sauces, pomegranate seeds, chopped parsley and a light whipped tahini sauce.  I never thought I would get excited about a cauliflower but the combination of firm crunch, spiced masala butter and light whipped tahini along with some of the slightly singed greens was quite a spectacle.  It looked great, decorated with copped parsley, bright ruby pomegranate fruit and rose petals. It tasted great, firm moist and spiced with the citrus relief of the passion fruit over the spiced masala mix, and you can even try to make it yourself.

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The Iraqi hummus was also presented beautifully. Finely whipped, smooth spiced hummus with elements of texture provided by grilled aubergines, sliced boiled egg and sweet sharp pickles. Dashes of spiced chili oil and dustings of ground spices finished off the dish, redefining what a hummus should be, alternating layers of texture and flavour.

The beetroot and whipped feta gently fried cooked beets with the savoriness of the walnuts and sweet/tartness of pomegranate made every bite for this lactose intolerant foodie worth it. 

The ground lamb was tender and pulverised in such a way to make the perfect spread for hot pitta although it was a bit salty and honestly was put to shame by the vegetarian dishes we ordered. Babaganoush is my favorite mezze in general and while this one was good, it wasn’t as spectacular as some of the other dishes we ordered.  

On the whole the service was laid back and friendly and the food was impressive for the price and offered a good variety of dishes.  Avoid large mains and go for multiple small dishes and I’m sure you will not be disappointed.