Sunday, 16 December 2012

Bone Daddies

If you haven't heard of Bone Daddies yet, it's not a rib shack or a steakhouse as the name might immediately suggest; it's a newcomer to London's burgeoning noodle scene. However if you're a foodie then you'll already know that Aussie Ross Shonhan, formerly head chef at Zuma and Nobu, has combined his love of Japanese food with the party-hard vibe of Soho and opened a no-reservation ramen restaurant where the pork bone broth base is cooked for 20 hours.

This place is also nothing like the exquisite, temple-food calm of nearby udon restaurant Koya; Bone Daddies is loud and kicking, with classic rock blaring and conversations buzzing from Soho's finest, squashed together at communal tables and knocking back the sake and cocktails. The tiny interior is stripped back and decorated with pictures of Japanese rockabillies; you're not going to want to perch on one of the stools for an entire evening but it's a perfect place to start a night out, or to end one.

We started with the soft shell crab. This was an immediate winner; deliciously crisp with a delicately soft interior, served with a punchy green chilli and ginger dip. Now is probably a good time to tell you that if you're not a fan of spicy food, let the staff know and ask for recommendations as the flavours here are big, bold and in your face.

The staff, on the other hand, are incredibly friendly and chatty and will happily help with anything you need. To drink we had some warm sake, served in a flask sitting in hot water, plus a fresh carrot and ginger juice; both were good.
For mains we went for the T22, a chicken bone broth base with soy ramen, chicken and cock scratchings - don't worry, they are in fact little nuggets of crispy fried chicken skin and add an interesting crunch to the dish - and the Tantanmen, dan-dan noodles piled in a chicken bone broth with pork mince, sesame, chilli and bok choy.

There are lots of options for customising your food; you can order extra meat, vegetables, egg or noodles from the menu (we did try an extra egg in the T22 but I doubt you'd want extra noodles) plus there is a fabulous range of condiments on the table including garlic and presses, and a sesame grinder. You can even order a pipette of pork fat to add flavour but I honestly don't think it needs it; my Tantanmen was wonderful, a rich and creamy sesame  base and a big chilli kick, perfectly cooked egg and spicy pork adding taste and texture.

Bone Daddies is a welcome addition to a part of London already blessed with some of the best restaurants around; my visit was an early evening pre-drinking stop, but I can see this becoming a staple for late night hangover prevention. If you start with the homemade pickles or miso soup and stick to tap water you can slurp your way through any of the warming noodle dishes and be on your way for less than £15 - just what you need at this time of year.

Yours, rocking the ramen,
Girl About Town xx

Square Meal
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Monday, 10 December 2012

Masters Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall

Fellow tennis fans will commiserate with the long wait for January; rejoice, then, in the Masters Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall. Not only can you get to see real legends of the game such as John McEnroe, Mats Wilander and Pat Cash but more recent retirees Henman, Ivanisevic, Moya and Enquist will also be holding court. Tickets vary dramatically in price but start from a measly £17.50 so even if you're feeling mugged by the festive season, you can beg an early Christmas pressie and get yourself down to one of the most stunning tennis venues ever. Speaking of which, I feel a slight historical diversion coming on . . .

The Royal Albert Hall is a Grade 1 listed building, a distinctive London landmark, truly gorgeous inside and out, and literally majestic. Opened in 1871 as a place for the public to discover and appreciate art and science, it was championed by Queen Victoria's consort, Prince Albert, and paid for by the profits of The Great Exhibition of 1851. Albert was passionate about social reform as well as art and science and saw promoting their understanding as a way of both celebrating and continuing England's industrial success (are you listening, Prime Minister?).

Londoners have much to thank him for (Albert, not the Prime Minister); the entire complex of South Kensington museums - and the ethos that museums are places of self-education and should be free to the public - are down to his influence. Albert was also responsible for bringing the traditional Christmas tree to England; he had a tree brought to Windsor Castle in 1841 and decorated it with glass ornaments, candles, fruits and sweets. A published engraving picturing the Royal family around the tree soon made it a popular yuletide tradition. Albert died suddenly of typhoid in 1861, at the age of just 42. Queen Victoria never recovered and remained in mourning for the next forty years, until her own death. At the official opening of the Royal Albert Hall she was so overcome with emotion that her son had to speak for her. The Hall was named in his memory and has been in continuous use since that day; one of London's grandest music venues, it has hosted performances from Wagner to Sinatra and Hendrix to Jay-Z.

Transformed from concert hall to tennis arena, the Hall retains its grandeur but makes for an intimate setting. This is a very relaxed event where players have fun and interact with the audience, but there is steel beneath the showboating; these guys can still really play, and the sight of Ivanisevic thundering down a trademark serve at 128mph is pretty impressive. We saw Moya vs. Santoro and Britain's Jeremy Bates against Guy Forget (standing in for an injured Ivan Lendl) but for me the highlight was seeing self-styled court jester and indisputable genius Mansour Bahrami.

If you're not familiar with Bahrami's exhibition doubles play, get on YouTube now; it's not a patch on seeing him live, but it will give you an idea of his natural comic talent and his ridiculously skilful tennis. Amongst his many skills he can serve holding six tennis balls in one hand, rally with an opponent on the opposite side of the net whilst facing his own doubles partner and teach Federer a thing or two about the hot-dog. Make a note in your new diary for the first week of December 2013; I'll see you there.

Yours, realising that to tennis players love means nothing,

Girl About Town xx