Regina G Beach

The only constant is change.

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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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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.