Blacklock Shoreditch

There’s no shortage of great bbq joints around East London but I think I’ve now found a solid favourite, by way of Blacklock which has three locations in Soho, Monument and Shoreditch. Their restaurant in Shoreditch is their biggest site and it’s the one Conor and I visited for some late birthday celebrations.

You’ll find their Shoreditch chophouse based in one of those classic Shoreditch ex-warehouse spaces, complete with exposed brick walls, large industrial-style windows and polished concrete floors. They have completed the renovated the old furniture factory with dark leather banquette seats and mid-century furniture.

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For those unfamiliar with Blacklock, they serve chops. You can opt for them ‘skinny’ at a mere £4 a pop, or ‘big’ served in increments of 100g. They come in various forms, think lamb cutlets, lamb t-bones, beef rump, beef rib, pork belly, porterhouse – I could go on, the list is endless.

All their meats are sourced from The Warren Family Farm in Cornwell whose animals are allowed to roam on the moors and live on a natural grass-fed diet. At Blacklock, they cook all their meats over charcoal and they sear them with an antique Blacklock Foundry clothes iron from the 1800s.

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But first, let’s talk about their drinks. They have a decent selection of cocktails for a fiver, namely the Gimlet, Negroni and Beefy Mary, and then they have their more ‘expensive’ cocktails priced at £7.75 (although in London that’s an absolute bargain)  with 25p from each cocktail being donated to End Youth Homelessness.

Anyone who knows me knows I can’t resist a Bloody Mary and for a woman who loves her meat, the added beef jus was a massive bonus and is the perfect accompaniment to the chops.

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To start, we opted for the pig’s head on toast and burrata on toast. For me, the burrata wasn’t runny enough, when you cut into it, it should ooze all over your plate and bread should be used to soak it up. Mine was served already cut in half and solid, like standard mozzarella. Don’t get me wrong, it still tasted creamy and delicious and paired beautifully with asparagus ribbons, radishes, fresh peas, pea shoots and spring onions.

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But the clear winner was the pig’s head. The fatty meat from the cut coated the charred slice of toast and topped with (a rather generous amount) of sliced red chillis, which cut through the oiliness of the meat perfectly. The best way to enjoy this dish is to pour liberal amounts of gravy all over it – I swear Conor and I would have drunk it straight from the jug if we were in the comfort of our own home.

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After the starters, we decided to go ‘All In’, which is the best way to go at Blacklock at a steal for just £20 per person. First, you receive three varieties of pre-chop bites – they’re basically little canapes. We were served a mix of egg and anchovy, cheese and pickle, chicken and horseradish, atop of circular crispbreads. I wish egg one came with more scrambled egg because the anchovies sure packed a salty punch and drowned out the rest of the flavour from the small bite. The chicken was by far our favourite, the unconventional pairing of horseradish was surprisingly delicious.

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Next up comes the pile of perfectly cooked beef, lamb and pork chops sat on top of two thick slices of flatbread, which help to soak up all those meaty juices. The meats are perfectly cooked, with the pork belly being the highlight from the platter. The fat was well rendered and starting to caramelise. Be prepared to use your hands here, otherwise you’ll miss out on all the scavenging possibilities.

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With the deal, you also receive two sides. We opted for the beef dripping fries and charred broccoli, sugar snap peas and asparagus (this is probably you’re only opportunity to get some greens in). The chips were crisp on the outside but tasted like they had been reheated – dip them in béarnaise and you won’t notice.

Blacklock is a meat lovers paradise and makes a meat feast so much more affordable than your traditional steakhouses. Come from a plate of chops, it’s bound to put you in a food coma.

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Blacklock Shoreditch, 28-30 Rivington St, Hackney, London EC2A 3DZ

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Pachamama East

Pachamama East is the Shoreditch off-shoot of the Marylebone original and is the latest restaurant from the team behind Chicama in Chelsea. Like its sister restaurants, they are still serving up Peruvian food, but this time with Japenese and Chinese influences – and let it be known, it’s seriously delicious.

The interior is something that you’d want to stick on Pinterest, think exposed brick, festoon lighting, marble tables, pink geometric floor tiles – But it’s not style without substance.

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Start with a cocktail (a pisco is a must) and a side of prawn toast whilst you browse the menu.

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The menu is divided into small plates categorised as Land, Soil and Sea. I recommend going heavy on the latter, it’s all about the ceviches when it comes to Peruvian food. Eat them all with a spoon and as you’ll want to be having as much of that citrus-y dressing as humanly possible. The salmon ceviche was divine, paired with a rich and zingy tigers milk and cubes of avocado and tomatoes. For me, the tuna on a bed on smashed avocado topped with jalapenos and radishes was one of my favourites.

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The tapioca marshmallows were another highlight from the menu and a real revolution. It’s chewy, but not cloying, and the fish has the exact springy texture of a marshmallow. It’s served with a drop of fiery chilli sauce on top (which was way too spicy for me) and the fish itself is packed in a crisp casing which oozes as you bite into it. Don’t be put off by the name – it’s a real winner.

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Get a couple of dishes from the ‘soil’ section to balance it all out. I highly recommend the caramelised aubergine with peanuts and asking for the plantain for dessert. I don’t have the biggest sweet tooth and this dish comes with feta, black olives and yacon syrup. It’s an incredible fusion dish and right up my street.

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It’s the perfect place to have in your arsenal when you want fresh seafood. Prepare to want to go back often.

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Pachamama East, 73 Great Eastern Street, London, EC2A 3HR

 

Tuyo

If you’re fed up of East London’s endless burger and sourdough pizza offerings, I say try something different at Tuyo, a pan-Mediterranean spot near Hackney’s Broadway Market.

It’s got an ex Salt Yard chef, Ricardo Pimental, at the helm who is serving up Mediterranean and Middle Eastern-inspired dishes. Just on the corner of Regents Canal, with floor-to-ceiling windows and baskets overspilling with greenery hanging all over the place. It comes complete with a bustling open kitchen as you make your way into the restaurant.

Tuyo serves up tapas-style sharing dishes and forces you to confront all your prejudices about fusion food. Line your stomach and whet your appetite with the blue cheese & date croquetas served with cumin alioil and roast walnuts. These small, sweet and salty croquetas are incredibly moreish, and disappear within seconds – a naughty but nice snack to have with your first round of drinks.

Moving on, you’ve got a whole range of dishes to choose from, from monkfish served with mushrooms and apricots, to ox cheeks and lemon grass, to butternut squashed accompanied with a harrisa and almond dressing.  The menu is unashamedly, yet mouthwateringly fused.

Then there’s the octopus which is the real show-stopper for me, dressed with hummus and cumin yoghurt, it’s delicious and so delicate; it’s one not to be missed.

On to dessert, because no meal is complete without it, try the dish which is described as baklava – only it isn’t. It’s far from the classic dish, but it’s a lighter version with almond pastry layered over minted yoghurt and garnished with fresh mango.

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Tuyo, 129A Pritchard’s Rd, London E2 9AP

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Brunch at Bristrotheque

Is there anything more quintessentially East London than having brunch in a converted warehouse?

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Enter Bistrotechque – a restaurant in a converted warehouse hidden away in Dalston.

You’ll probably find yourself checking Google Maps, wondering if you’ve gone wrong along the way, and questioning all the endless rows of old warehouses and houses without a hint of ‘there’s a restaurant in here’ as you walk down the street – but don’t let that put you off.

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The only marker that you’re reached Bistrotechque is a discreet little opening between a couple of buildings, which is given away by some dangling lights and some foliage.

Once you head inside and make your way up the stairs, you’re greeted with a massive bright, airy, white room. There’s a large bar running down the side of the restaurant, with an open kitchen at one end, and a piano at the other.

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The room is stark and is simply decorated with industrial drop lighting, original concrete floors and brick walls, plus it comes complete with white-clothed tables, which really brings the place together.

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The menu at Bristotheque is filled with your standard brunch fare, but with a few surprises thrown into the mix. I was gutted to find out that only two weeks after we visited that they added a soft shell crab benedict to their menu!

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I opted for the Bistrotheque Breakfast, which comes with sausage, bacon, baked beans, layered potato, eggs, and toast. It’s a whole lot of food and Conor had to help me finish it off as I couldn’t quite manage it.

Their layered potatoes are something else though – they’re basically fried potatoes but served as stacked, thinly sliced cubes… I dread to think about how many calories they contained.

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Conor went for the Eggs Royale, which was served the traditional way on English muffins but it comes with a little twist, however, as the eggs are topped with caviar.

Now brunch isn’t brunch without a bloody mary (or two), and Bistrotheque mixes up a knockout – just don’t get your spice wimp boyfriend to try it because it really packs a punch.

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Bristotheque, 23-27 Wadeson St, London E2 9DR

 

 

 

Blok London | Clapton

My parents moved to London over 30 years ago – back when you wouldn’t be caught dead in Shoreditch after dark, and when Clapton was an elephant graveyard. But these days, it’s painfully hip.

Blok London is a workout studio which I’ve been dying to try out for some time now, and thanks to ClassPass, I finally managed to book myself into a session.  It’s housed in a converted Victorian tram depot in Clapton. It’s got two studios, and both of them retain the buildings original industrial features, with boxing bags hanging from the steel beams.

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Each studio has its own specialism – one decided to boxing and high-intensity interval training, and the second space is for yoga, barre and plates. Don’t expect to find any treadmills or fancy machines here, it’s all about the classes and stripping things back to basics.

I tried their signature class, BlokFit, which is strength and conditioning based. The workout was led by trainer Kenny, who started the session with a 5-minute warm-up of jump squats, lungees and burpees to get your heart rate going.

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BlokFit is a circuit-based class, and we worked our way around 9 stations, performing each exercise for a minute in total – the first round was focused on our lower body and the next, on our upper body. We used a range of equipment from battle ropes, TRXs, kettlebells, medicine balls, plus there were some bodyweight exercises thrown in.

Once we completed the lower body circuit, we were put into pairs – one of us skipped for 20 reps, whilst the other completed a plank shoulder tap for 20 and then we switched. Dropping it by 4 counts after we had both completed both exercises.

After the upper body circuit, we partnered up again and hit the same format, but this time performing mountain climbers and high-plank to low-plank pushups.

The class was pretty rammed packed for a Sunday, which meant the instructor spent most of his time reminding us what we were meant to do at each station, rather than correcting our form.

It’s definitely a hard class, and if you’re not used to lifting heavy weights (as their lightest kettlebell was 15kg), you might struggle. It definitely challenged me to do exercises I wouldn’t usually include in my circuits.

Each class is priced at £14, or you can invest in a pack, but they can also be found on Class Pass.

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Blok London, The Tram Depot, 38-40 Upper Clapton Rd, Lower Clapton, London E5 8BQ

*Photos courtesy of  Blok

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Brunch at Strut & Cluck

If you’re anything like me, your weekday breakfast often consists of eggs or avos – so by the time the weekend rolls around, I’m in the mood for something different. That’s where Strut & Cluck step in. Originally just specialising in dishes featuring the turkey, they’ve branched out to a menu which really showcases Eastern Mediterranean flavours, which they’re known and loved for.

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You’ll find Struct & Cluck on a prime spot on Commerical Street, literally around the corner from Shoreditch High Street overground station. It’s got a glass-fronted exterior which looks into a brightly lit room. It’s filled with rustic wood tables, exposed light bulbs and hanging plants. The now-classic East London look and definitely something I’d love for my own flat.

I went post-gym class at the Adidas Studio and met up with my sister. She ordered the hand-pulled turkey shawarma, which is topped with a fried egg and served with dates, pine nuts, tahini on top of a pita.

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I went for the classic shakshuka, two eggs cooked in a pan with tomatoes, peppers, onions, chilli and chorizo, served with a warm pita for scooping. My eggs, unfortunately, were served undercooked, but the staff took the dish away no problem and gave me a free coffee as an apology.

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It’s a calm little oasis in the heart of Shoreditch – a perfect spot to rest your legs and refuel after a morning of touring East London.

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Strut & Cluck, 151 Commercial St, London E1 6BJ

*Main photo courtesy of Strut & Cluck

 

 

Breakfast in Bread at The Barge House

If you’re looking for an Instagrammable Sunday brunch, then you’ll want to hit up The Barge House in East London. You’ll find it on the Regent’s Canal between Hoxton and Haggerston set in an old Victorian warehouse – all of which are now either places to grab a bite to eat, craft breweries or design studios. The place is decked out fairy lights which cover their floor-to-ceiling windows, with tables along the waterside and a minimalist dining room and an open-plan kitchen.

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Their Breakfast in Bread brunch menu is exactly what it says on the tin – a hollowed-out sourdough loaf packed full with traditional breakfast fare. There are a couple of options to choose from… the original is your standard full English complete with slow-roast tomatoes, oyster mushrooms, leeks, Cumberland sausage, spinach, bacon with an egg. Or you can grab yourself a vegetarian version which comes with avocado, spinach and asparagus.

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Whilst there’s limited choice for veggies, and no vegan options, they do try to source all their produce as ethically as possible. All their eggs are free-range and their sourdough loaves are baked just around the corner at the Better Health Bakery – an artisan bakery who provide trainee placements for adults recovering from mental illness.

I opted for the smoked salmon bread bowl. It’s filled with spinach, leeks, smoked salmon, creme fraiche and topped with an egg and a sprinkle of cheese. It’s a food coma in waiting.

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The Barge House, 46a De Beauvoir Cres, London, N1 5RY

Main photo courtesy of The Barge House

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