The Fat Bear, St Pauls

Type of BarBar/Restaurant, American
Damage£££
Ideal forFoodSmall GroupsLarge GroupsAfter Work

An undisturbed backstreet just off the road from St Paul’s grand cathedral, away from the bustle of the tourist crowd, there hides a gem, just above the Rising Sun.

Blues on the speakers, The Fat Bear’s low light and decor is a portal to Louisiana, easy going and demands you carry a fan with you for the drama. The venue creates a delightful balance of light heartedness and a casual fanciness, like dining at a pressed white tablecloth venue without feeling the need to roll your eyes every 5 minutes. As per the name and theme, I felt it was only fair to rock up in an enormous fur coat with fan. Look, I like themes, alright?

The food menu is a Southern delight but resist the urge to order everything, this veritable orgy of food will overwhelm you. When the two of us clearly were out of our league we did have to enlist the help of a bartender and a friend in the area to tackle our order – these portions are deceptively enormous!

One of our favourite bartenders and a wizard with rum, Gergὄ serves up a Solera Club, a lower ABV beauty. Mixing Amontillado sherry, Cynar, peche, and absinthe; nutty sherry makes a sweeping entrance before allowing the stone fruit to blossom, dragging you back down into the bittersweet Cynar, ending on the aniseed effervescence of the absinthe. A dozen times, yes.

But if you want that sour pick me up, the Pendennis is here for you: gin, apricot, lemon and Peychaud’s bitters. Astringent and in heels, the cocktail opens with spicy Bimber gin as a backdrop to the apricot that takes the stage, ending on a length of aniseed and Creole spice.

Now listen to me very carefully, reader. You want the corndogs. Order the corndogs. I don’t know what it is that makes these corndogs so addictive, but a pair of these (especially when paired with the sriracha mayo) will make your night. The train of starters kept coming in: the southern fried boneless chicken tenders were a crispy perfection, competing for the most attention for chicken with the kickin’ buffalo wings with their blue cheese dip – fighting hard for some of the best I’ve had in the city. Need more chilli? Ask about the Fat Bear’s extensive hot sauce list – why do Creole remoulade when you can do ghost peppers?

In typical Gergὄ fashion, we ain’t leaving with getting our fill of Tiki cocktails! The Tiki Sour combines Jamaica Cove Pineapple Rum, Somerset cider brandy, Orgeat, Falernum, lime, cinnamon bitters, egg white. Pineapple and cinnamon on the nose, the apple eau de vie tags on the arm of the pineapple rum, spice in their wake. The Falernum and lime helps temper the sweetness of the orgeat and cinnamon for a whole tour of flavour. In many ways, a classic Sour – which we down with our wonderfully savoury pimento cheese and toasted ciabatta, and fries topped with cheese, spring onion and bacon while waiting for our mains – yeah it’s at this point we should have assumed we were being ambitious.

Mid meal, say hello to the Welcome to Oaxaca: Gem & Bolt Mezcal, Ocho Tequila, Benedictine, Yellow Chartreuse, Miracle Mile Lime and Bergamot bitters. As part of what seems to be our global tour of cocktails, we pull up in my favourite spirit-homeland. Normally made with Sekforde Tequila Mixer, the mixer is switched out for bitters because by now we know my style.

Gem & Bolt Mezcal kicks down the door to the tune of Boys by Lizzo before immediately swirling into peppery, herbaceous Ocho tequila. Herbal and sweet eucalyptus of Yellow Chartreuse and spicy-bitter Benedictine step in before just as quickly returning to a finish of lightly smoky and floral Gem & Bolt.

And here’s the kicker: the best gumbo and jambalaya this side of the Atlantic.
Chicken, custom made Andouille sausage and prawns stew make a gumbo that blow the rest out of the water, and a spicy seafood jambalaya of prawn, catfish and Andouille sausage smothering rice for a Creole experience unbeaten in the UK. But that’s why you’re here.
On the side, creamed greens and mac & cheese, because clearly we haven’t learned our lesson in portions.

Ending the meal evening with a few neat spirits to celebrate the impressive and unique back bar, the Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Rye on the nose is a glory. Caramel and sweetest cinnamon carouse around nutty warm spice. Opening with hazelnut and soft marzipan, the honeyed powder spice ends chocolatey and smokey with soaking, sugared dates and fig. What a gorgeous dram.

Finally, here they come – flaming Baked Alaska and oreo cheesecake to end the meal. Perfection, this Alaska, blue and radiant, and the oreo cheesecake a decadent chocolatey delight. By this point we basically recruited two more people to help make our way through the meal. But honestly, we wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Finally, to conclude, the Long Pond 11-year-old 2007 Rum. Wow. This one is unforgiving and smooth – blasting your palate with spice and florals before descending into familiar cocoa and cigar smoke and coffee bean. A perfect alternative to a cigar.

The Fat Bear is somewhat overlooked as one of the most hedonistic nights out in the City, and possibly in London. You might have shaved a solid 5 years off your lifespan but by Screamin’ Jay Hawkin’s false septum piercing it was damn well worth it. I mean you’re sitting at the bar across from the entire Pappy’s whiskey selection and the Antique range by Buffalo Trace while filled with cheese, you aren’t in any place to complain.

Even if you’re just popping by on the way home from work for a pair of corndogs and a bourbon, come down to this little Louisiana haven – you won’t regret it.

Drinks: ****-*****
Atmosphere: ****
Service: *****

The Fat Bear

61 Carter Ln,
London EC4V 5DY

http://www.thefatbear.co.uk

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The Bayou Banquet @ The Vaults, Waterloo

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, American, Pop Up
Damage: £
Ideal for: Food, Brunch, Live Music, Hangover, Small Groups

Purveyors of all things Louisiana – from soul food to jumpin’ live music – Slap Ya Papa! (‘because he never cooked you food so good!’) is bringing their red-lit New Orleans inspired world to the Victorian railway arches at The Vaults this September with a two week festival of events to launch The Vaults Kitchen, a brand new restaurant space at London Waterloo’s subterranean hub of arts and culture.

IMG_5637

With the Mississippi melting pot as its muse, The Bayou Banquet will give guests a taste of the heady, vibrant and culturally unique world of New Orleans. Featuring a spectrum of experiences, from immersive supper clubs, live music and Crescent City cocktail fuelled parties, to interactive art exhibitions and auctions, all-day Sunday brunches and even a hint of celebrity, with a run of cabaret audiences with Nola native and Mad Men star Bryan Batt.

Throughout the residency, the first in a rolling series of pop-up restaurant concepts at The Vaults Kitchen, Slap Ya Papa will team up with kindred culture collectives artists Marbles and Ware, and live bands Riot Jazz and Kansas Smitty to offer a programme of festivities to run throughout the day and late into the night, showcasing the best of a bubbling new wave of the most soulful Deep South food, art and live blues, jazz, funk and soul music in London.

Bayou Banquet London Waterloo Brunch

The Hoodooist’s experience at the Egg, Bacon, Grits…SAUSAGE Brunch served up aforementioned dish with a wonderful smattering of green onions and spices with cornbread and sweet potato muffins with the most wonderful honey butter.

Better than that, though, was the magic Laura was concocting behind the bar – as blues played in the painting-adorned hall with its communal dining tables. After the first sitting, diners are led to the bar area to take on the rest of the cocktail menu.

Bayou Banquet Vaults Cocktails

L-R: The Deepsouth Widemouth, & the Bloody Derby

The Bloody Derby brings Four Roses Bourbon with “a secret mix” blending Tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper, Amontillado sherry, Picklehouse pickle juice and tomato juice. The Amontillado is what makes this for that bite of dryness that goes so well with the the Picklehouse and cayenne. A fantastic Bloody Mary twist.

The Deepsouth Widemouth has vanilla-infused Four Roses Bourbon, fresh chilli, ginger shrub, Amaro and Campari reduction for a smooth aperitif. It’s got a real kick, this one, long, dry, with a hint of sweetness from the vanilla and ginger shrub. If you’re afraid of Campari, don’t be, the reduction grants it only a hint of the flavour. Enjoyed this drink, though takes a while with its strength and dryness.

Finally, the Missy Sippy: Vodka, Kamm & Sons, lemon, mint, and sweet potato syrup. Now here’s one for the sweet tooth – the ginseng of Kamm & Sons lends to a musky sweetness, as does the syrup, luckily the lemon lifts the drink up a bit (considering its thickness). Personally, it does well as a liquid dessert.
Service is swift, and the smaller space makes it easier to grab attention of the staff – at the bar, expect conversation and quick service from Laura dishing out those Bloody Derbys!

Drinks: ****
Atmosphere: ***
Service: ****

Event info and ticket link below!

Bayou Banquet London Waterloo Brunch

Events at The Bayou Banquet to look forward to:

Wednesday 16th, Thursday 17th & Thursday 24th September – Slap Ya Papa Supper Clubs (£30)

Friday 18th September – Slap Ya Papa X Riot Jazz (£35)

Saturday 19th September & Saturday 26th September – Marbles & Ware Bizarre Bazaar (free entry)

Saturday 19th September & Saturday 26th September – Marbles & Ware Bidders’ 5 course Banquet (£40)

Sunday 20th September & Sunday 27th September – Slap Ya Papa presents: Egg, Bacon, Grits…SAUSAGE Brunch (£20)

Monday 21st – Wed 23rd September – The Bryan Batt Cabaret presents Tales from New Orleans (Mon/Tues – £25 [non-dining], Wed – £40 [includes four course dinner])

Friday 25th September – Slap Ya Papa X Kansas Smitty (£35)

Bayou Banquet London Waterloo Brunch

As they say in Nola – Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!

Tickets can be bought at: http://www.the-vaults.org/#!slap-ya-papa/cfpu

Joe’s Southern Kitchen & JAILBIRD, Kentish Town

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, American
Damage£ – ££
Ideal for: Small Groups, Food, Hangover, Comfort Food

 

The 2014 trend of the American South goes strong the Joe’s Southern Kitchen opens in Kentish Town, with the cocktail bar JAILBIRD downstairs (with booths in the once-jail-cells!) Whereas its Covent Garden cousin goes for a more anju style menu, with more small plates, the Kentish Town branch is more for a proper face-stuffing.

Kentish Town food cocktails chicken

The cuisine certainly isn’t meant to be taken apart and analysed, but a hearty, cheese-soaked, indulgent comfort-feast for a hangover (great. Now I want it after a hangover.)

rib roast

Expect clotted cream and Red Leicester in your gooey corn spoon bread, and more Red Leicester with 3 other cheeses in the ooziest of mac n cheeses (one of the more addictive MnC’s I’ve had). Poached egg, dijonnaise and red onion jam sits on the short rib that will change your opinion of meatloaf, and for many, the question of why on god’s green earth you’d serve waffles with chicken will be answered.

I didn’t quite get the answer, but it didn’t really matter because BOURBON MAPLE SYRUP.

…..

BOURBON MAPLE SYRUP.

 

Bourbon Maple Syrup

!

Sorry, I just get very excited about it.

….
Oh yes, cocktails!

 

The list in the restaurant upstairs is the same as downstairs, and are heavily reliant on Jim Beam and Stolichnaya. The Hoodooist couldn’t help but feel the ingredients seemed a bit muddled.

One that stood out from the messier drinks was a confident Bullish Negroni: Bulleit Rye, Campari, Antica Formula vermouth. Which was…surprising. Smooth, pleasant, self-assured. The smokiness of the Bulleit Rye is very much present, but the spicy tobacco flavour is tame in comparison to the other ingredients. It’s light sweetness of fruits and orange zest plays a part alongside the Campari – which is immediately followed by the winter spices of the Antica Formula that continue into the length of bitter oranges and cherries. The first sip might seem foreign, but instantly becomes very familiar and welcoming.

 

whisky negroni

The Bullish Negroni

Two Old Fashioneds next, a Knob Creek, and a Woodford Reserve. The Knob Creek is up for anything, dry, fiery flavours come through – firewood and the sound of a straight razor dragged across a leather-strop. Followed by a nutty spice and oak. On the other hand, the Woodford Reserve is mellowed too far (at least in the Hoodooist’s opinion), removing all the pleasurable rye, ginger or coffee notes, leaving only a wintery sweetness.

Pause for obligatory Jim Beam White Label Pickleback. A 5GBP Margarita does the job (if you’re being charged more than a max of 6 pounds for a Margarita, someone’s cheating you). A sip of a friend’s Lucky Stag, though (Jim Beam Red Stag, Maraschino, egg white, lemon, sugar) was cringey.

 

Knob Creek, and Woodford Reserve Old Fashioneds

Knob Creek, and Woodford Reserve Old Fashioneds

Killer desserts roll in – Peanut Butter Pie with Chantilly cream, Pecan Pie with Jim Beam Honey cream, and Iced Honeycomb and Chocolate Parfait Sandwich help you find your dessert stomach as your dessert cocktails arrive.

The Espresso Martini: Stoli vodka, Kahlua, sugar syrup and espresso use the spirits I would normally avoid for the cocktail (there are far more impressive coffee spirits out there) – though is still moderately successful. Unfortunately, the Devil’s Frappe doesn’t work particularly well, and went unfinished – coffee infused Jim Beam, chocolate cookie syrup, espresso, double cream and milk – coming off powdery and awkward.

 

pickleback

Picklebacks!

This all makes Joe’s Southern Kitchen’s drinks difficult to rate. Comfort food makes the experience a lot of fun, and one pays less attention to the drinks, absolutely – but as a cocktail blog, unfortunately a decision has to be made. I found the menu to be a bit all over the place, and the classics most tempting to order. The Old Fashioneds and Margarita turned out rather well (as long as you know your whisky, and very few can ruin a Margarita). And I wish I saw more drinks in the style of the Bullish Negroni.

The other cocktails still leave much to be desired.

I’d return to stuff my face with a whisky in my hand, or take on classic cocktails. Which isn’t necessarily undesirable!

Service is attentive, explanatory, conversational – and somewhat formal, considering the surroundings – no complaints here!

….

BOURBON MAPLE SYRUP.

Drinks: **-***
Atmosphere: ***
Service: ****

 

Joe’s Southern Kitchen

300 Kentish Town Road,
London NW5 2TG.

http://joessouthernkitchen.co.uk/

Jackson + Rye, Soho

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, American
Damage£ (for cocktails)
Ideal for: Rye/Whiskey, Food, Date, Small Groups

Jackson + Rye has been a Soho staple for a while now, and seems to be almost constantly full – with good reason! The American South meets a Wild West saloon meets a glance of Corbin and King styled suaveness results in J+R’s dimly lit, two-floor hardwood den and take on a zinc bar.

Something about the décor is still very European – even the menu is set out very brasserie-style, though the dishes themselves are from the hearty South. Chilli and garlic grilled shrimp on a bed of grits and sweetcorn and showered with shallots accompanied by and easy and citrusy Rittenhouse Rye to cut through the grits without over powering it. A main of buttermilk fried chicken and sweet potato fries with the warm spiciness of High West Double Rye, and finally, pecan pie with a spectacular rye whiskey ice cream alongside a thick, sugary sweet Smooth Ambler Old Scout Rye.

Rye Whiskey cocktails

Background: Rittenhouse Rye Manhattan; Foregorund: Woodford Reserve Rye Old Fashioned

For cocktails, the evening begins and ends with a Rittenhouse Rye Manhattan (classic Gangster recipe) of whiskey, Martini Rosso and Luxardo Maraschino to provide a smooth, sweet, but bold take on the Manhattan that isn’t served in London that often lest asked for.

Finally, a classic Woodford Reserve Rye Old Fashioned is heady and not kidding around with the citrus – classic in every sense of the word.

Besides the (incredibly) filling meal, a rye whiskey tasting that will soon be a regular attraction at Jackson + Rye!

A preview got us a history of rye, and the relationship between the UK and the USA regarding rye imports – and a tasting of four ryes;

Rye Whiskey Tasting

Tasting of four Ryes

Beginning with an everyday Jim Beam Rye, it comes off a bit more like a bourbon than a rye, a bit thin and flat. The nose is a myriad of spices, the palate begins with a vanilla sweetness, then a collection of spices and distinct warmth and a peppery finish.

The High West Double Rye is a lot more fun – with an immense rye content, you can smell the spiciness from a mile away, as well as a caramel. The mixture of old and young whiskeys that make HWDR result in a contradictory mix of powerful pepper and cinnamon, as well as a thick honey and nutty caramel. A fun ride, this one!

Bulleit makes an appearance – more famous for their bourbon, their new rye is popping up everywhere in London these days. (Personal note? I feel I’m a bigger fan of their bourbon.) Initially, you get kicked in the face with the spice and…tobacco? Followed by a light sweetness of fruits, strongly orange zest. All smoky.

Finally, the Smooth Angler Old Scout 7yr arrives to the table. Probably the most unique in the tasting, this was also the sweetest. It comes off in the nose too, chocolatey. The palate is as well, along with Demerara sugar, but still warming and spicy. A fantastic digestif.

Fun, conversational, and informative, the quality service at the tasting extends to the bartenders upstairs. No complaints here.

Rye Whiskey

Jackson + Rye provides a beautiful environment (if not a bit noisy, it’s crowded enough, the Imelda May soundtrack doesn’t have to be as loud), with excellent service – substantial meals with quality cocktails and an excellent selection of ryes. And the tasting – excellent for introductions to rye – have a confident, conversational environment to both learn, *and* get drunk in. What’s not to love?

 

Drinks: ****
Atmosphere: ***-****
Service: ****

Jackson + Rye

56 Wardour Street, Soho,
London W1D 4JF

http://www.jacksonrye.com/