Elliot’s

If ever a restaurant faced stiff competition then Elliot’s located right in the heart of Borough Market is just that. It always looks appealing with people standing outside enjoying a glass of wine, but I’ve never been able to resist the treats on offer in the market so I have always been too full to give it a go. What convinced me today was that I had read that they served one of the best burgers in London, something I could hardly pass the opportunity of trying.

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We turned up without a booking and were told they’d have a table ready for 1.30pm. That time soon came and went, and it was 2pm before we were seated. This didn’t bother me a great deal because we took a seat up the bar, ordered a couple of pints of the Kernel pale ale (£5) and took the place in. There’s a great warm vibe which was helped by it being packed, and it has the feel of a good neighbourhood restaurant.

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When we were seated it was a little frustrating to be made to wait for about ten minutes without a menu. Finally with one in our hands I was gutted that there was no sign of the famed burger! Instead it was made up of small sharing plates and a few mains. Oh well, I’ve had three burgers already this week, can’t hurt to be a little more experimental.

We had to ask for bread and water (that makes it sound a little bit like a soup kitchen) and then had to tell the waiter when we were ready to order. The waiter was chatty and knew his stuff, although when we asked how much food we would need (I always get confused by this small plate system and end up with far too much) he did seem to be pushing us down ordering more than we’d need.

First up was the brown sourdough. Exactly what we needed to soak up last night’s drink and ease our hunger. It was warm, soft and with just-the-right-amount of burnt crust. It’s probably the best sourdough I have eaten, and it helped to ease my pain at missing out on the burger.

The first small plate was game sausage with oxford sauce (£7). I was hoping for big juicy sausages so I was a little disappointed by the three chipolata sized sausages that turned up. They didn’t have a strong enough game flavour, but were still tasty and the oxford sauce (which I admit I didn’t know what it was) had a good kick of mustard. Still though for £7 this is more like an expensive bar snack than a small plate to share.

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Next up was the hare ragu and fazzoletti pasta (£10). Again given the size of the portion I find this to be overpriced. The dish was fine, but didn’t really excite. It needed more seasoning but there was no salt or pepper to be seen- either complete confidence by the chefs that the seasoning is just right or the waiters forgot to put them out. It also could have done with a little more of the meat juices and sauce- it just needed something to bring the dish together.

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Last of the smalls was squid with datterini tomatoes and capers (£10). The squid was perfectly cooked and had a lovely flavour, but the dish was a little unbalanced given how many capers and tomatoes there were, as the sharpness of their flavour took the focus away from the squid.

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For a main we shared the cockerel kiev and cauliflower cheese (£29). Is it simply by putting cockerel instead of chicken that they can push the price of the dish up? It certainly seemed a little expensive for a posh kiev, especially how you only get one side with it. It has to be said though that it was excellent. The crumb crust was perfectly crispy, like that on the best of Scotch eggs, and the chicken was moist and succulent, and there was plenty of strong and buttery garlic sauce. The cauliflower cheese was rich and had a good strong flavour as well.

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With a couple of beers the bill came to just over £75, which for a lunch that was initially intended to be a quick burger seemed expensive. Although it is the best sourdough bread and possibly the best chicken (sorry cockerel) kiev I’ve eaten, it still didn’t justify these prices. I admire that they use seasonal ingredients and keep things simple, it was just that none of the small plates really had a good kick of flavour. We were left thinking just how much we could have had in Borough market for that price…

Food: 7/10

Service: 6.5/10

Atmosphere: 8.5/10

Value: 6.5/10

Overall: 7/10

12 Stoney St, (Borough Market) SE1 9AD

Elliot's Cafe on Urbanspoon 

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Pitt Cue Co

Pitt Cue Co is a meat dungeon where no more than 30 hungry prisoners are lucky enough to be served up trays of smokey meat. On what was probably the last pleasant day of the year before the 6 month slog of winter arrives, what better way was there to spend it than in a grey windowless bunker. At least it would be helping me with the unintentional fattening up that tends to start around this time of the year.

As is the ongoing trend around Soho there are no reservations, which usually means tenting up outside the door hours before it opens, only to still somehow be told that the wait time is 2 hours the moment the doors open (fuck you Burger & Lobster). But today I beat the system and we were seated within five minutes. It feels great when you are one of the lucky twenty to have a seat, and when I left I smugly grinned at all those in line.

Downstairs really is tight. There’s barely enough room to squeeze past people without rubbing your crotch across their back. It also means that if you are a two then you’ll be sharing the table. We were cramped up next to a couple of Americans who were gasping about the quality of the BBQ (always a good sign) and as they kept knocking back more shots of bourbon were becoming increasingly more flirty with each other, to the point that they started leaning over the table to plant kisses on each other. At 12.15 on a Thursday afternoon, this made for an entertaining lunch. What makes the sharing of these small tables fun is that the food here is not neat and dainty, and instead it’s the type you get your fingers and mouth dirty with. Grinning with pulled pork clinging to my teeth at the American packed in closely to me, she gave me a grin back with BBQ sauce all around her chops. We had become table buddies, and by the end of the meal we had joined them on the bourbon shooters.

We shared a snack of beef on toast (£5) with a half pint of ‘Whatever’ (the beer on tap- £2.50). It was a surprisingly neat and tidy dish, but we soon changed that by tearing into it with our hands. If only all toast tasted as good as this. The drunk Americans next to us were so jealous that they went ahead and ordered two of them.

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Then came the pulled pork bun with a side of bone marrow mash (£9.75) . It wasn’t the biggest or messiest I’ve seen but the flavour made up for this. It had a great tangy smokiness and the bun was buttery and soft. The mash tasted of meaty caramel and was so smooth that it soon served a condiment which we dipped the bun into.

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I went for the spicy pig’s head sausage (£12.50) with crushed celeriac and leak. If this had been dinner then I’d been a bit disappointed by the size of the portion on the prison tray in front of me, but again the flavour was great. I couldn’t shake the image of McDonald’s sausages given their shape though! The picture isn’t the best, but it was taken in a dungeon!

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We were in and out within 45 minutes, so it’s ideal for a lunch or quick dinner, but hardly a place if you want to relax and let the food settle. There’s hardly enough space for the waiters to do much more than just put the trays down in front of you, but they were friendly and of course hip (although without beards- maybe this is going out of trend now?). A lunch for two with a couple of beers came to £40. I wouldn’t say that the food knocked me out, after all it is just BBQ smoked food, so I wouldn’t queue for an hour like I’m sure some people happily do. Instead I’d be more inclined to nip down the road to Bodean’s where the pulled pork sandwich isn’t quite as good, but at least you have a better chance of getting a seat and don’t feel like you’re hiding from the Luftwaffe when you do.

Food: 8/10

Service: 7.5/10

Atmosphere: 7/10

Value: 7.5/10

Overall: 7.5/10

1 Newburgh St, W1F 7RB

Pitt Cue Co on Urbanspoon

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