I went out on Saturday. I was sociable, and everything.
My afternoon/evening out was a “double date” (for want of a better term) with Ben, my new friend Angharad (of Edible Glitter fame) and her other half, Paul. We took ourselves off to Balham, a trendy part of SW London.
I can state, first and foremost, that we had an absolutely fantastic time. I may or may not have had one too many cocktails, and was spouting absolutely crap in terms of food reviewing by the end of the evening, but I’m fairly sure we all enjoyed ourselves immensely.
Meeting up just before 4 o’clock, Angharad lead the way up the road to Smarty Paints, a Do-It-Yourself type pottery painting studio. She has been there once before (quite recently!) and enjoyed so much that I think she used us as an excuse to go back there again 😉
Smarty Paints, Wandsworth
Ben and I are ourselves no strangers to the pottery painting game, incidentally. We have been a few times before to a studio in Berwick-upon-Tweed called Pot-A-Doodle-Do, but this was our first venture in London (and without the premise of supervising young relatives!)
The set up of the studio was much what I was expecting – several tables, with paints laid out and paintbrushes abounds. The idea was: you select your “raw” unglazed pot/figure of choice, paint it up with the paints provided, and in a week’s time you could collect your finished, glazed piece! I picked out a big fat pussy cat “piggy bank”, whilst Ben took a big mug, Angharad a little oil jug and Paul managed to get his mits on the biggest bowl he could find.
We took a good two hours painting our pieces (although I’m sure we would have stayed longer if we could – the lady had to keep reminding us that they had to close the shop soon!) So – how did our pieces turn out? Well, you (and I) will have to wait and see – they will be ready by Thursday, and even then I may well hold fire on sharing photos until Angharad is back from her holiday.
Comments on the shop itself: the table we were sat at was a little limited in space. I sat in the corner (as is my wont) but was firmly wedged in there as the table was very close into the corner. Also, unlike our experience in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Smarty Paints charge a “studio fee” of £6 per person, on top of the price of your piece. This I suppose I can forgive them, as everything is more expensive in London, and they have to make money SOMEhow. Finally, and I find this with all art&craft activities and studios, there was simply not a wide enough range of brushes. Either they were too big, or were small and had been hammered to death by someone’s small child. I keep reminding myself I have to bring my own brushes to these sorts of things (because I am a mad perfectionist) but always, always forget.
But on the whole, a hugely enjoyable experience. The staff were friendly and helpful, but didn’t pester – they knew we were loopy, and just let us get on with our “thing”.
Next, we pottered down back towards Balham station, and chose The Exhibit bar to kill time (and brain cells) drinking cocktails until dinner.
The Exhibit, Balham
As luck would have it, we arrived right in the middle of their happy hour(s) (5-8pm), and so choice cocktails were 2for1. We started off with our favourites though (i.e. full price) – I had my old favourite, a Mojito (made “Extra Old” by using Mount Gay XO), Ben went for a twist on his usual by trying a Long Island Spiced Tea (which got its name simply by using Sailor Jerry), Angharad tried out an Elderflower Margarita and Paul had his old faithful, beer (a Tiger).
Twenty minutes before our dinner reservation, we deliberated over whether or not we had time for another round. It was agreed that we did, but for some reason we thought it would be a good idea to make the best of “Happy Hour” and get two Exhibit Smashes (gin, elderflower, apple & mint) EACH. Personally, I stuck both straws in my mouth at once and hoped I wouldn’t embarrass anyone at the restaurant.
To Lamberts, where Mayfair-quality food, without the pretence, awaits!
I have been to Lamberts once before. I remember it being a fantastic meal. I have been dying to go back there ever since. Taking Angharad (and her restaurant-reviewing blogger self) seemed like the perfect opportunity.
Lamberts is a cosy little place – right next to Balham station, it is ideally located, as it is easily accessible in high-heels (if you are having a super posh dinner date, which we weren’t), and you can get as drunk as a skunk and still get home in one piece, with no trouble (which we did).
Slightly unsteady for having two cocktails at once, we were shown to our table. We took an age just deciding on drinks, because we were so overwhelmed by the delicious sounding menu options. Finally, Paul took the bull by the horns and ordered us each a champagne cocktail, and a bottle of their Saint Chinian 2005 (to share!!) The waiter staff were very attentive and spotted every time we finished a bottle of water throughout the evening, promptly replacing it.
Eventually, we managed to decide on what we wanted to order, and vowed to share a taste of each dish.
For starters, I predicted correctly that Ben would home in on the Cornish squid, served with black pudding, confit tomato and dill oatcakes. I chose roasted Jerusalem artichoke soup, topped with rabbit ravioli and thyme oil. Angharad chose the potted ham hock and peas, with grilled spelt bread (which would have been my alternative choice), and Paul went for the partridge Wellington, plum purée and spiced jus. The latter, we were warned, would take an extra ten minutes to prepare, but it was all beautifully timed and all starters arrived within moments of each other.
For our mains, I could do nothing but chose the duck: if duck is on the menu, it is MY duck. Here, it was glazed Telmara farmed duck breast, presse of leg, smoked garlic mash, baby gem, peas and bacon. Ben went for the rare breed beef (which was Galloway) from the chargrill, chips, portobello mushroom and peppercorn sauce, and he had a side of baby gem, peas and bacon as an extra. Angharad went for the game of the day, which was saddle of deer, and came served with a potato rosti, and finally Paul chose the herb crusted saddle of Blackface lamb, garlic & thyme potato terrine with caramelised pearl onions.
We all tried all of the courses (except Angharad wouldn’t touch Ben’s starter with a bargepole, for fear of tentacles) and agreed it was the best meal we have had in a long time. I know that once Angharad gets back from her travels she intends to review the food on her blog, and so I will post a link to that once it’s up.
Finally, what is a fine-dining experience without the gluttony of pudding that none of us really need or have space for? Exactly.
Angharad has the elderflower & creme fraiche tart, strawberry sherbert and Secrett’s farm strawberries, and I said “yes!” to the Amedei Toscana chocolate mousse, malt ice cream and shortbread. Ben was content with a piece of shortbread to accompany his whisky (a Benromach Peat Smoke from Speyside) and Paul and I split a decanter of port (although by this point I was thoroughly plastered and ready for sleep – it was a Quinta do Tedo, LBV, 2002). Oh Lamberts, I WILL be back.
We paid our bill. Ben ate three of the four complimentary truffles that came with it. We piled into a taxi and headed home, vowing to explore our local area more in future.