Do! Berners Tavern

Berners Tavern, while a bit of a scene, is a must-do simply due to its grand decor. The Fitzrovia restaurant doesn’t have a meal I can’t live without, or even a menu of amazing options I can’t decide between, but, boy, is it pretty. 

I don’t even think pretty is the right word. It’s glamorous. And grand. Like you’re stepping into an old Hollywood hotel for dinner and not a London hotspot. Rich colors, chandeliers, circular leather booths, high ornate ceilings, a grand illuminated bar, and then, there’s the wall decor. The walls are dressed with hundreds of paintings in gilded frames of different shapes and sizes with unique detailing. It is a sight to see and seems simple with this common structured theme, yet wildly decadent. I will continue to visit Berners Tavern so it can continue to set a romantic tone for special nights with my husband or to impress guests with the grandiose scenery you will not find anywhere else.

Beauty at Berners Tavern, London
The Aging Hipster cocktail at Berners Tavern, London

If only the Berners’ menu could be as eye-catching as its decor. I went with a group of people and every single person got the steak. The meal was good, not-over-the-top outstanding, but good. It really stood out to me, though, that no one was really willing to try anything else. Even my husband and I will usually get different items so we can swap half-way through, but nothing at all stood out to us. So beware. It is a heavily British, traditional menu, so if British fare is not your thing, you might get stuck.

After the mediocrity of dinner, we braced for dessert. The Flaming Alaska was beautiful and tasty, but my dessert, the berry pavlova, was awful. So over-the-top sweet that we only could have a few bites. The meringue, berries and the berry coulis was all too much. A complete overload. They should have cut the berry sweetness with some type of a pastry cream filling, a whipped cream topping, or a creme anglais drizzle. Anything, but what was served. 

Chicken dinner at Berners Tavern, London

Berners Tavern’s impressive Flaming Alaska

As you can see, our night had a lot of hits, like the decor and attentive service, but just as many misses, with food and a menu that just didn’t meet my expectations. Berners is still a definite “do” with its beauty and charm, just keep everything else in mind!
Berners Tavern
10 Berners Street
London W1T 3NP

Categories Do!

Don’t! The Mall Tavern

The Mall Tavern is a pretty happening spot. The Notting Hill corner pub is always booming and has a pretty loyal following. Many friends had told me about their local pub, so I went for dinner to see for myself, but honestly, I didn’t get what all the fuss was about. The food was mediocre and the menu didn’t even have a lot to get excited about, and the space itself was too dark, too loud, too average. The only bright light was the service, in my opinion. Friendly and accommodating, the staff was good, just not great enough to make it all worth it.

The building itself on the outside is pretty cool. It wraps with a sharply curved one-way street. The somewhat hidden area has an old English vibe, which is a nice change from the busy area of Notting Hill Gate, just one street away. Inside, however, I feel the pub has a bit of an identity crisis. Half pub–minimalist with a walk up bar, pushed together bare tables, cozy eats and casual fare–and half hipster joint with unfinished walls, subway tiles, and bathrooms so dark you don’t know if the bathroom stall itself is a club.  The menu tried to be colorful and quirky, like an adult comic book, but I just kept rereading it not really soaking anything in. This was probably because nothing jumped out at me. The one item we all wanted to order, the ribs, was no longer available that evening, so we ordered some basics and hoped for the best.

One friend said the place used to be really good until they “Americanized” the menu. I had no idea what he was referring to because nothing jumped out at me as American, but I looked again at the wings, artichoke dip, mac & cheese offerings and tried to see his point. Once the meals actually came, I decided there was nothing American about the dishes.

A cold artichoke dip at The Mall Tavern, London

I started with the artichoke dip and ordered the burger.  I was so disappointed with the artichoke dip, perhaps because I was hoping it would be American-style like my Irish friend had claimed. It wasn’t. Mainly because it was served cold. Not hot, creamy, cheesy and gooey. Just cold and really salty. The mac & cheese was a much better starter so I spent half the time eating my husband’s dish instead. The wings were very unusual. Not my style, a little too soggy, tossed in an all over blue cheese sauce. I prefer a traditional spicy, crispy wing with a nice dip. But they were still tasty. 

An appetizer at London’s Mall Tavern

The burger for my entree was just so-so, but I find that’s London burgers in general. So, after finishing our apps and entrees and starting to understand what my friend meant my missing the mark on American food, we decided to give the place a chance to redeem itself and ordered dessert.

I tried to bring it back to Britain with the sticky toffee pudding and another friend got the “Rolos.” Sticky toffee pudding is amazing and there are plenty of great versions around London. The Mall Tavern, however, does not have one of them. Their take on the classic is a little too spiced and a little too dry. Despite being coated in the sauce, the inside was too dry to be able to mix well when eating. The “Rolos” were just bizarre. Absolutely nothing in common with a Rolo other than the ingredients of chocolate and caramel. Totally different flavors, textures, and consistencies. That one was a misrepresentation and we were all kind of disappointed. 

Sticky Toffee Pudding at The Mall Tavern, London

At the end of the night, I took stock of my friend’s experiences. None of us had an outstanding meal, or were all that impressed with our surroundings. It was hard to hear each other in the loud, echoing room, despite how closely we were huddled together. And the desserts totally fell flat. Again, we all thought the servers were nice dudes, but that cannot carry a whole establishment. For this, The Mall Tavern is an unfortunate Don’t.

The Mall Tavern
71-73 Palace Gardens Terrace
London W8 4RU

Do! Big Easy

If you’ve been following my blog, you by now know that one of my biggest obsessions is good BBQ. On the hunt, once again, I found myself down on King’s Road in Chelsea at Big Easy. This southern joint was lively and tasty and definitely deserves a Do!

Big Easy in London’s Chelsea neighborhood

When I arrived, I couldn’t believe how busy and energetic the place was. As I waited for my friend to meet me, I watched date nights, family meals, and Happy Hours trail on. I got whiffs of amazing oversized meals and sizzling fajitas. I knew I had made the right choice for a fun, comforting weeknight dinner.

Even though the night’s special was tempting–all you can eat fajitas and a cocktail for £20–my girlfriend opted for the healthier choice of the shrimp Caesar salad and I stuck to my guns with BBQ. Our entrees arrived pretty quickly and, boy, were they impressive! London is the land of little shrimp, something I struggle with here, but my friend’s salad was topped with two of the largest I had ever seen. I was instantly jealous of a salad, imagine that! That was until they put down my platter. I had the ribs/BBQ chicken combo with a side of cornbread and the mac and cheese. 

Giant shrimp at London’s Big Easy!

At first I was disappointed with Big Easy’s BBQ menu. I mean for starters they didn’t have a pulled pork sandwich. That’s like the greatest sandwich of all time. Once I got over that issue (and their unaccomodating side substitution policy) I settled on my meal and turned out pretty happy.  The chicken portion was pointless. Not very moist or exciting, just plain chicken really. I should have just gotten the full rack of ribs. But the ribs were AMAZING! Literally falling right off the bone in a pretty tasty sauce. I had to ask for extra sauce and would have liked an option of a spicier one, but given how tough it is to find good BBQ in London, I’m giving them a pass. The mac and cheese was pretty delicious too. The icing on top was the very tasty corn muffin. They should totally change the name, though, because there was nothing reminiscent of a corn muffin about the bread, but it was good nevertheless. It was more like a buttermilk biscuit made with some corn. They should rename it a corn biscuit just so they are not being misleading.  But that’s just me being a critical BBQ-loving American.

A BIG plate of BBQ at BIG EASY, London

But anyway, I had a great time. Both my friend and I were pleased with the quality of the service and the food, as well as the drink and food portions. The price was right and we would both do it all over again. Head to King’s Road if you want a big and easy meal for any night of the week!

PS-Please get some decaf tea bags. It’s not like it expires. Thanks!!

Big Easy
332-334 King’s Road
London SW3 5UR

Do! The Ghost Bus Tours

I hope everyone had a spooky, safe, crazy-fun, sugar-filled week. In honor of Halloween, four of us hopped on the London Ghost Bus Tour this weekend!  I had seen these 1960’s Routemaster buses on the busy London streets before, and added the activity on my own, personal London Checklist. I decided to reserve this unique opportunity for the scariest time of year, and while it wasn’t necessary, I’m kind of glad I did.

The night was just right. A little misty, the streets a little damp, the sights and sounds of Halloween excitement around the city and in the air. Four of us waited at the Northumberland bus stop for our Ghost Bus to collect us. We were surrounded with other suspecting folks, some dressed up to really get into the spirit of this (black) magical holiday. 

The Ghost Bus, London

Then there, out of the sea of foggy headlights, emerged an eerie jet-black beast, illuminated by a creepy orange glow. We boarded the bus which was clean and comfortable, and fit with the Masteriece Theater vibe of velvet curtains and actual lamps next to each booth.

Inside a London Ghost Bus

We really did not know what to expect. The masked bus driver teased and frightened us, popping his head up in different windows before departure, but after that, the adventure was more of a murder-mystery/comedy tour. Without giving too much information away, let me just say that you learn an awful lot about the City of London’s darker past while experiencing some on-board surprises.

It was also very different to take a tour at night, after dark. Our ride started at 6:30, so you got to see all of London’s famous sights in their eveningwear, with dramatic and sometimes colorful lighting. Something you might take for granted when you’re in an Uber on your way to dinner like any other weekend night. The ride lasted for about an hour and fifteen minutes, which was a perfect amount of time. I found the £23.50 price very reasonable for an all-in-one tour and comedy show, though I could see the experience going very bad if the host/actor wasn’t very captivating. The guy we had was hilarious. His delivery was dry and on point every time. True English humor at its finest, and I believe he made the experience. I can’t say whether or not all of The Ghost Bus Tour hosts are as impressive, but this man sure made the trip worth it. 

Your hilarious and spooky tour guide, London’s Ghost Bus

In summary, if you want to try something different and not be stuck inside now that the cold weather has struck, hop on The Ghost Bus Tour for something new! It’s a silly, spooky experience sure to put you in a good mood and teach you a thing or two about London’s dark history.

Side note: Shame on the woman that brought her young children on the tour. It is not appropriate whatsoever for children under at least 7. This woman’s 2 and 3 year-olds were loud and unable to hold their attention towards the host which made it hard for the adult guests to hear. Then, were brought to tears once the madness started. They’re probably scarred for life now, all because this lady didn’t want to get a babysitter or do a little research. For appropriate-aged guests, though, enjoy!

The Ghost Bus Tours, London
The Ghost Bus Tours
8 Northumberland Avenue
London WC2N 5

Categories Do!