Butcher & Bee – Nashville, Tennessee (USA)

As I write this post I’m listening to a country band in Tootsies, in Nashville airport, Tennessee. Aka Music City, Nashville has the friendliest people I’ve ever come across. I’ve received complements and lifts from total strangers, countless recommendations, and a “howdy, how y’all doing” every ten minutes or so.

The abundance of space is also pretty astonishing. The airbnb we stayed in was a bungalow with at least three metres on either side before the next house, and most bars and restaurants stand alone amidst a sea of highway and big cars. Continue reading

Commander’s Palace – New Orleans, Louisiana (USA)

I have spent the past week with my fiancée in America, the Land of Opportunity, and large portions. Specifically, we have been in Nashville and New Orleans. For our final night in New Orleans we decided to live as the Southern elite do, by dining at Commander’s Palace, a fine dining institution in New Orleans’ finest neighbourhood.

If we’d known earlier about the $18 lunch special with $0.25 Martinis beforehand we may have been a little less elite and gone for that instead but alas we did not.

We popped our heads in to have a mosy around and see about booking the day before, but due to our attire of jeans and trainers we weren’t given the same warm welcome we had received elsewhere.

When we arrived last night, dressed more appropriately of course, they walked us though the main room, upstairs, through the secondary dining room and into a tiny annex room. Dissatisfied with the people watching potential, we asked if it was possible to be moved to a better table. Within seconds one of the managers was escorting us to a different table, but oddly via the fire escape stairs and through the kitchen. Jacob and I had differing views on this. Was it because he wanted to let us know that even though he was moving us, we must remember we are not part of the Southern elite? Or was it just to avoid making the other second class guests feel second class? It’s a mystery.

Our next table was still at the back in the corner but at least it was in the main room and there were most certainly some interesting people to watch.

We were just getting used to the new surroundings when one of our many waiters came to take our drink order. We had barely had time to tuck our chairs in let alone choose a drink. No decision needed to be made whilst thirsty though as every time we took a sip of water, our glasses were topped up, accompanied by a grandiose “Excuse me, Sir” or “Excuse me, m’am.” After a while they abandoned that technique and routinely replaced our two-thirds fill glasses with brand new ones, again from a silver tray.

We were asked another four times whether we had chosen drinks yet, by waiters swooping in like seagulls at two minute intervals. Four times we said “no, not yet.” On the fifth attempt, we were ready.

Commander’s Palace offers a three course special for around $40, depending on which main course you choose, which is what we opted for.

I started with the gumbo du jour, a chicken and mushroom soup. Two waitresses simultaneously placed two empty bowls down and swiftly filled them with soup from a tiny saucepan. It was officially a soup but in practice I’d say it was much more stew-like. I did enjoy it but it had an artificial flavour which may or may not have been from artificial flavouring.

As our soup bowls were taken away our mains arrived instantly, like a factory production line, allowing no time for a breather. The main was a local white fish, aka gulf fish, sitting under a blanket of potato rosti and on top of Swiss chard and root vegetables. I didn’t have any complaints.

Along with our desserts came something most strange. A man dressed in a suit, as oppose to the uniform of the other waiters, placed our Creole bread pudding souffles on the table along with a dish of whiskey sauce and, with great haste, stabbed my souffle to make a cavity for the sauce. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he then spooned more and more and more sauce in, far more than I would ever have wanted, each time using an overly pretentious flourish with his spoon to really rub in the fact that he had all the power over this souffle. I was shocked. To have my souffle pierced for me felt like I was being robbed of a rite of passage, and because of their incessant efficiency, it was all over before I had a chance to stop it. Would he like it if I took a spoon to his chocolate fondant and oozed it for him?! I think not.

I have no images for you on this occasion because I felt somewhat uncomfortable taking pictures in an environment where ladies powder their nose and men can’t take their jacket off.

The meal was pleasant. If it wasn’t so expensive, I would recommend visiting just for the amusement provided by the pretentiousness.

Bayou – Camden, London

Can you book? Yes – but you may not want to after reading this…
Food: 2/10
Atmosphere: 4/10
Price paid per person: £25

Can Creole food get more crummy than Bayou? It’s doubtful. It was with great discomfort last night that I paid over £50 (for two) of hard earned cash for what was probably the worst food I’ve eaten in quite some time.

For reference, Creole cuisine is a style of cooking originating in Louisiana (USA) which blends French, Spanish, West African, Amerindian, Caribbean, German, Italian and Irish influences, as well as more general influences from the southern states. Continue reading

Berber & Q – Haggerston, London

Can you book? No (but the wait is pleasant and not too long)
Food: 10/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Price paid per person: £40

I emailed Berber & Q a few weeks before going to ask if they would consider bending their ‘no reservations’ policy, for no real reason other than fear of being turned away and sulking all the way home. They said no, but in a very friendly way, so we made it our business to get there early last Saturday evening and arrived just before 7pm. It isn’t a large restaurant, there are two sharing tables running along the centre, another five or so smaller tables against the wall and a few seats at the bar. We were told the wait could be up to an hour so put our names on the list and were advised to enjoy a cocktail either at the bar or either of the next door bars but to stay close as we would receive a call. Continue reading

Five Guys – Covent Garden, London

Can you book? No (but you won’t have any problems)
Food: 10/10
Atmosphere: 7/10
Price paid per person: £10

Eating at Five Guys was such an efficient experience I’m going to summarise it in five short sentences, including this one.

By the time I thought about taking a picture of my Five Guys burger I had already gobbled it all up, that’s how good it was.

As my boyfriend will testify you really can order every single topping on the menu at no extra charge.

They give you free peanuts whilst you queue, still in their cases so you also have the fun of crushing them.

The buns are refreshingly simple (no fancy brioche), the meat is not overdone, you can be done in under half an hour, and for two burgers and regular spicy chips it cost £20.

Click to add a blog post for Five Guys on Zomato

Joe’s Southern Kitchen – Kentish Town, London

Can you book? Yes
Food: 8/10
Atmosphere: 9/10
Price paid per person: £24

What is it about the name Joe? Why is it always used in conjunction with fried chicken, lumberjack shirts and Jack Daniels? Don’t get me wrong, clearly as a Jo I’m not in any way against the name, I’m just terribly curious as to what the connection is. Even Google couldn’t help me. But what’s in a name, right? Continue reading