Want to know whether a bar, restaurant or club is suitable for that girly chat or romantic meal, check our reviews below. Each review has a talk or a dance rating rating out of 5. 

Wednesday
Aug292012

New York Trip - Day 1

Amsterdam Ale House, 340 Amsterdam Avenue  New York, NY 10024

I love NY and try and visit every year, I am very lucky to have a friend there and get to stay in his amazing apartment. My 2 friends who came with me found somewhere close by using Air BnB. I’ve rented people’s apartments before and think you get far more bang for your buck then you do with a Hotel. Out of all the places I have been in the world NY has the most expensive rooms for the least amount of space, which is a shame as it is a great city.

Courtesy of Kathy CookThe days of 2 4 1 dollar to sterling are long gone and unlikely to ever return, but I think you can get some good deals on food and shopping by doing a little research.

 Our first stop was a familiar one in the Upper west between both of our apartments; Amerserdam Ale House. It is nothing fancy, but has a huge menu (Gordon Ramsey would not approve), the benefit being we’ll all find something we fancy after a long trip. The prices are very reasonable for food and as expected giant portions. My tip for NY bring a friend with similar tastes and share, it’s one thing I hate about NY too much food gets wasted or worse still you end of eating it all.

I had a chill cheese steak, which is a new one on me and my friends who are veggie had a cheese grilled sandwich and veggie burger all washed down with a bottle of pinot. Nothing would set the world on fire but all pretty good.  Probably should have tried one of the 20 beers, which is their  speciality but not really our thing. Service was good as would be expected here and having a few seats outside was great. Inside there are quite a few sports screens and therefore can get noisier when there is a big game on.  Good casual midweek spot.

Talk rating: 5/5

Monday
Aug202012

Black Pig with White Pearls – 12/08/12 61 Stoke Newington High Street, N16 8EL

I am always very excited when a new restaurant launches near me, getting great food within walking distance is reason enough to stay in Stokie.  We are lucky to have a good selection of Turkish, Indian and cafes but a Tapas breaks the established mould around here.  

It is located on Stoke Newington high street replacing Bodrum café, which I thought was popular, maybe the proliferation of new cafes has forced it out. The refit is very minimal with ‘eclectic’ furniture and seats about 20 (they did tell us about a private room downstairs too).  I like the relaxed décor and service, but saw others leave on arrival so not everyone’s cup of tea. 

The dishes are split between main dishes to share and tapas.  The tapas are reasonably priced at £4.50 with sharing dishes such as the Iberico ham plate around £15. Ordering these dishes does push the price up, but is reflected in the quality of the ham.  The real anomaly was the salad at £6.50 which seems a bit steep in comparison with the amount of work that goes into the other dishes. The highlight for us was the black ink squid risotto; I could have eaten this as a main. The wine list could be a little more extensive with more bottles under the £20 mark, but on the plus side the house white was good.  We encountered friendly and attentive service, but it is hard to judge as it was a quiet Sunday evening. This was equally true of the ambiance; music was traditional Spanish when we arrived and progressed to chart music. I think they were finding their feet with the noise levels, with just the 2 of us they didn’t want it too quiet, but at times it got a bit loud, however it was fine overall.   Not cheap when you consider the location and decor, but worth it for the quality of food.

Talk rating: 4/5

Black Pig With White Pearls on Urbanspoon
Friday
Jul272012

The Old Red Cow & Morgan M – 26/07/12

The sunshine this week has been glorious and has resulted in me going out far too much, after a near week of sobriety came a week of wine. Last night though was hubbies birthday and therefore drinking was unavoidable.   

First stop was The Old Red Cow, I had looked it up before and it looked interesting. It has a tiny downstairs bar (see picture)and a  slightly more spacious upper bar, TOP TIP: go up here to get served quicker. There were a surprising number of people sitting inside and with the big window at the front; it was like a mini greenhouse in there.  Some sensible people were catching the rays outside, no official seating but quite a bit of space at the front and the side.  There selection of beer is great and the house wine was very drinkable.  Quite hard to be make an accurate talk rating as not that busy, but no shouty music in evidence. 

Talk rating: 5/5

 

After a few aperitifs went off to our reservation at Morgan M I have heard lots about it especially when it was in Islington, but as yet never tried it. It was a far more convenient option than the west end, what with the heat and the Olympics. We opted for the tasting menu which was interesting and quite light, very welcome in the heat. The highlights for me were the mackerel and the pigeon, so often this can be tough but was cooked to perfection. The lower notes were grapefruit on my Tuna Tartare and the dessert, wonderfully executed soufflé; I just never find them that interesting. There was a great choice of wines under £40, in fact only a couple were over that, this really marked this place out from west end restaurants.

The service has been criticised in other reviews, but I found it impeccable but formal, which is not everyone’s cup of tea. When asked whether the tune was pole caught they knew immediately it was (or were fibbing, but will give them the benefit of the doubt.)  The ambiance was quite staid, there was some music in the background, but it was so low I couldn’t tell you whether it was Jazz or French. I think in a coupley restaurant like this, and also where you are seated facing the other diners you need a bit more noise, otherwise it feels as though you are eves dropping on others or whispering so others don’t eaves drop on you.  That aside we had a wonderful evening that worked out to be quite reasonable for the quality of food.

 

Talk rating 5/5 (possibly a little too quiet, don’t like to hear myself breathe)

Morgan M on Urbanspoon
Friday
Jul132012

Browns (bank branch) - 12/07/12

The last few Fridays I’ve been terrible hungover, this week wanted to save myself for the weekend, so opted for food over drinks at Browns in Bank. My friend is a bit of a voucher freak and I managed to find a good deal on their website, if you give them all your details they’ll give you a special £29 menu for 2 where you get 2 courses each and bottle of wine. The choice on the menu was pretty good and they also had a few premium options (extra £3). 

The shouting suits were expected but the thumping dance music wasn’t

We arrived in the pouring rain to a cavernous, art deco building. The shouting suits were expected but the thumping dance music wasn’t. After 5 minutes downstairs in the bar area straining to hear we went upstairs. It was a bit more sedate here, but still not quite sure there is the need for loud dance music at 6. I like dance music but when I want to dance.  Rant over; the food was really good no ‘offer’ portions, which you can get at other places and wine passable. Would have preferred more of choice on the wine front, medium rose and only an oaky chardonnay not everyone’s choice, but for tenner a bottle (part of the deal) what do you expect.  All in all would recommend for a smart but cheap night out.

Talk rating: 3/5 bar 3.5/5 restaurant.  

Tuesday
Jul032012

Dirty Martini & Joe’s Pizza – 28/06/13

The fortnightly challenge of trying to get my girlfriends together for a gossip was one of the reasons I started this website. We want to go out midweek in the centre of town and catch up. We are not looking to be chatted up or dance, just get together and talk and our usual places started to become louder and louder or are just getting older either way we are always on the hunt for cheap, reasonably quiet, central places to meet.

....half price wine on the surface sounds great, but when price start at over £20 doesn’t work out super cheap.

One of my friends suggested Dirty Martini, handy for all of as near Oxford Circus and had a happy hour until 10pm. The trade off is that is in a basement, which is slightly annoying when it is the only hot day of the year, but once you try and factor in sun as well into choosing a venue you are finished. The bar seemed to be recently decorated, but hard to tell with the low lighting and only a slight disinfectant/alcohol smell.  Our seats had been reserved, although these types of places always give you an area too small for the amount of people.  Happy hour was long (until 10:00pm), but not as cheap as some other offerings in London – half price wine on the surface sounds great, but when price start at over £20 doesn’t work out super cheap. On the positive the wine we had (£28 down to £14) was not acid rain.  A nice touch was bringing round a few snacks, didn’t persuade us to eat there as their veggie choice was limited. Atmos was as expected; pop music playing with general chatter getting louder as the night wore on (heard on Fridays can be overrun with boisterous suits). By 9:30-10:00 the music was too loud and they lost us to food.

Talk Rating: pre 9:30 4/5 gradually going to after 10pm 2/5

 

After a few bottles of wine food was essential so we went to one of our regular haunts, Joe’s Pizza a 10 minute walk way in Soho. It started out doing house wine for £13 and wood fired pizza’s for £6 twice the size of Pizza express ones. The size hasn’t diminished but prices have risen and the choice has got wider, they now serve alongside pizza’s and salads, burgers and baguettes. There is a nice buzzy atmos but much easier to hear, they do have a policy of not seating you until all your party is there, which I suppose stops people hanging around on a large table. Quite a rare find in Soho, but if prices increase much more will be less attractive.

Talk Rating: 4/5

Soho Joe on Urbanspoon