Welcome to Louis WAGS It! A monthly review of Zahra and Louis’ top restaurant picks from the WagIt platform.
After studying cookery and food sciences for over 5 years, Zahra decided to settle down with someone who has impeccable taste when it comes to dining out. That someone is Louis. On this blog, they will combine their food expertise to review WagIt’s restaurants and give you the lowdown on where to eat and what to order.
Each month, they will break down a selection of venues with Louis’ WAGS.
W for Where – All you need to get there
A for Atmosphere – What makes this place special?
G for Grub – Zahra’s passion and domain
S for Service – Louis tells all.
Louis WAGS It – Christmas Paws, Pubs and Pints
Happy holidays WagIt readers! It’s almost Christmas and Louis and I are ready for all the festive food on offer!
Last month I was away travelling and within 24 hours of being back in the city I was reminded of exactly why London is my favourite place in the whole world to celebrate Christmas. The city transforms into a magical wonderland. All the festive lights are up and shining and happy shoppers are grinning about their purchases. Despite the annoying train strikes, the streets are heaving and I’m feeling blessed to be spending this time of year in a city who knows and does Christmas like no other.
Whether it’s finding a place to meet up with friends before holidays begin, hosting a work Christmas party, or gathering at a pub to watch the final of the World Cup (for those still interested), this month I’ve got you covered. Just don’t forget to put your pooch in a Christmas jumper and take them along!
Is it a hipster craft brewery? A trendy Korean restaurant? Or a swanky dog-friendly hotel lobby? Somehow it’s all three! Three separate businesses (German Kraft Beer, Seoul in a Bottle and Jim & Tonic) joined together in one location where ‘cool’ is the common theme.
My partner had been nagging me to try this place for months. You can bet that a place which has Korean fried chicken and craft beers would be high on his list, especially when he doesn’t have to look at Louis’ beady eyes begging us not to leave him at home alone. The boys were sold. Off we trekked across the city to see how the restaurant would match up to the pictures of Korean street food we’d been salivating over for far too long!
Where – Just a stone’s throw away from Dalston Kingsland overground station. Dalston always amazes me with its eclectic mix of venues – Turkish kebab shops, Vietnamese restaurants and Afro-Caribbean food stores. Amongst them all stands a sleek, modern hotel with a restaurant/brewery inside called Kraft.
Atmosphere – The website and pictures online don’t give away how fancy and stylish Kraft truly is. The ground floor is a large open room with tables arranged around a central bar. We were led to the downstairs area which hosts the kitchen as well as the small brewery in a glass room. Much to my partner’s delight the dining room also housed a large flatscreen playing the evening’s match. Not the rowdy, noisy, typical pub space to watch the football. Louis and I couldn’t be more thrilled!
Grub – The menu features a lot of Korean street favourites and recommends ordering a main, two sides and a bar snack per person which is more than what you’ll need. After much debate we went for the Korean Savoury Pancakes Combo to start, followed by the Fried Chicken Combo, the Bulgogi Bibimbap and a side salad for main. Much to my disappointment all the food was brought together and we were overwhelmed with how to navigate the table. We tucked in on all fronts and hands down, the star of the show was the Fried Chicken Combo. A massive portion with a mix of boneless thighs, drumsticks and wings served with a sweet, sour and spicy sauce which was to die for. You could hear the crunch when you bit into the chicken and weren’t left with a horrible greasy coating in your mouth. Definitely a ‘Winner, winner, chicken dinner!’
Whilst the fried chicken was clearly a showstopper, the Korean pancakes weren’t as exciting. A huge platter of big, thick, deep fried pancakes were like crispy fritters and were untraditional in every sense (normally thin, flat and pan-fried). The delicious sweet and spicy sauce carried the dish. We were quite disappointed by the Bibimbap that evening which was mostly looks. The best part of the bowl was the Bulgogi beef which was tender and well prepared, I could have eaten a plate of just that. The bowl itself was sadly too small to mix all the contents together and was not heated to cook the egg on top (traditional bibimbap is white rice with meat and vegetable toppings served in a big hot stone bowl which cooks a cracked egg on top). Instead, there was a fried egg on the top of the dish which became cold rather quickly and wasn’t runny enough to coat the rice. The dish seemed more like a Korean Poke bowl than a hot, tasty Bibimbap. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a main with so many other tasty sounding options on the menu. The side salad I ordered was beautifully dressed and next time I visit, I’d be tempted to have just that and a platter of fried chicken.
Even more than the food, I was really impressed with the creativity and delivery of the drinks menu on offer. The German Kraft beers are all unfiltered, unpasteurised and feel smooth as butter on the tongue. I’ve tasted a few before in Mercato Mayfair and Mercato Metropolitano in Elephant and Castle, which is where the majority of the brewing takes place, so I was eager to see what they had on offer at the restaurant. I was blown away to hear that Kraft also makes its own gin by Jim&T and decided to sample it in the Roobee Doo cocktail. It seriously packed a punch, the gin going straight to my head, but was well balanced with the fruitiness of the rhubarb. It didn’t take much convincing for me to order another.
Service – We were welcomed warmly at Kraft and the manager even swapped our tables so dad could watch the footy. I was happy, too, because they brought me some water right away. I had plenty of space where we sat, and spent most of the evening snoozing. Mum wasn’t so amused that when the table was cleared the waiter didn’t wipe down the surfaces and mum had to ask twice for it to be done. They did pack our leftover food in a doggy bag to take home which I assume is for me!
Tanner & Co
The area of London Bridge is a creative hub for restaurants, market stalls and other well established places to eat. I love visiting the neighbourhood and walking down Bermondsey Street to see how each business tries to one up their neighbour by offering something even better or more niche.
Last week my friend asked me to meet up for a Sunday Roast in this exact area of London. I suggested Tanner & Co which I knew was on WagIt and was promoting mouth-watering looking roasts all over their Instagram. I’d never heard much about it before but figured you can’t really go wrong when you go out in London Bridge.
Where – Right at the start of Bermondsey street. This trendy street once used to be famous for its industrial tanneries and leatherworking. Today, the large warehouses and buildings are converted to cafes, restaurants, bars and homes to London’s most fashionable.
Atmosphere – This converted warehouse space has a lot going on. There’s a bar-like outside area with colourful lights and neon signs, whilst the inside is more old- school pub. A large wooden bar is surrounded by a mix of high top tables, a long communal table as well as booth tables. The area at the back is a dining section with a massive projector, perfect for watching the football. By day the pub seems like a busy work and meet-up place and by night it’s a hectic event and drinking spot.
Grub – Tanner & Co is the perfect place for a good bar menu or bottomless brunch. With so many outstanding places to eat on Bermondsey Street, it makes sense that Tanner & Co. is the perfect place to go to have a few nibbles alongside your cocktails – that’s their niche with the added bonus of being super dog-friendly.
However, the roast is what we came for and the roast is what they were pushing – I’m really not sure why. We ordered two portions of roast beef with horseradish and a roast pork ribeye with apple sauce. Sounds fancy. We asked if we could have extra well done roast potatoes, after seeing the potatoes on the table next door, and ordered sides of cauliflower cheese and pigs in blankets for the table.
Our food arrived and my friend sent her plate back right away. The beef was not medium rare as promised but fully grey in colour. The roast potatoes looked like they had barely seen any time in a hot roasting pan and there was no horseradish, gravy or apple sauce. Whilst my friend waited hopefully, my partner and I decided to give the food a go. I, too curious to see what they had served us without much care, and him, too polite and hungry to send his food back. It was the most unsatisfactory roast meal I’d ever had. I barely touched my roast but was thankfully saved by the cauliflower cheese and pigs in blankets. Both sides were delicious and would highly recommend, we should have ordered more of that. In the meantime, the waiter brought back my friend’s plate with slightly pinker meat and roast potatoes that had clearly been put in the deep fryer. I was surprised that the restaurant charges £24 for this kind of roast meal given how much they promote it.
We spoke with the manager who called for her superior. They both seemed very apologetic and embarrassed. They explained that the restaurant was undergoing a whole load of changes right now. They’re in the midst of training new kitchen and floor staff so the food is not up to scratch. The GM asked if we would please consider coming back to try their new bar menu instead. He agreed that there was too much going on in terms of menus, events… etc and was working hard since he started to sort it all out. We empathised and were grateful for him coming over. That’s the way to address a customers feedback!
Service – I don’t know what all the fuss is about, I absolutely love it here! They brought me a bowl of water, a plate of treats and even offered me a blanket. The staff all welcomed me and on top of it all I practically ate mum’s whole roast meal! And when mum complained they were really understanding and even invited us back to try more food. This is the best Sunday ever!
Overall – 3.5
The City Barge
Every once in a while you may be fortunate enough to come across a unique place that can really take you by surprise and will remind you of how special it is to eat a meal out with a loved one (your dog). The City barge did exactly that for me and turned my average work Tuesday into a perfect family Sunday.
I had little to no expectations for my meal at this historic riverside pub. It was an overcast day, my partner and I took Louis for a long walk, and we decided to treat ourselves to a late midweek lunch. We entered this picturesque pub and felt so snug we immediately wondered how we would ever manage to leave.
Where – About a ten minute walk from Gunnersbury tube station you’ll find a small area just on the bank of the River Thames called Strand on the Green, Chiswick. There’s not much around but it’s serene, quaint and there are beautiful riverside walks.
Atmosphere – Stepping into this 14th-Century pub is like walking into a home away from home. There’s a big bar area with some couches and small dining tables leading to an attached, more formal, dining room and kitchen. Dogs are welcome only in the pub area and at the outside tables on the river bank (as mentioned on WagIt). We were taken to a small table by the window, looking onto the river, where there was a dog bowl and menus waiting. The warm atmosphere called for a mulled wine right away. My first of the season which couldn’t have been more perfect!
Grub – A modern British menu offered too many delicious things to choose from. I was tempted by all sorts of fancy dishes, such as the pan-fried sea bass with chorizo and the crab, scallop and spinach lasagna (Both of which I will return to try). In the end, we stuck to hearty pub favourites to match the cosy atmosphere of the bar area. We started with the Baked Camembert in Filo Pastry to share. It was done superbly with the delicate thin pastry, toasted sourdough slices (just the right amount) and finished with a gorgeous truffle honey. We took our time on this and enjoyed each mouthful of dripping cheese. For mains we shared the homemade Charter Pie which is a traditional puff pastry pie made with chicken, ham and leek in a creamy white sauce. The pie came with buttery mash and roasted cabbage. The whole dish was divine and I swore it was the best chicken pie I’d ever had. Perfectly cooked pastry, no soggy bottom and packed with perfectly seasoned fillings. We also tried the burger which was a thin short-rib and flank patty with homemade relish, melted cheese and some burnt onion. It came with long and crispy fries which were on point. No disappointments whatsoever. After our mains, we were so full that we decided to move to the couch nearby to watch the football match and cuddle up with Louis before ordering dessert. A couple of hours passed before we ate pudding and we were glad we waited for it. A soft and decadent Sticky Toffee Pudding with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. A perfect ending to the perfect afternoon.
Service – It’s so warm and homely here, I hope we never leave! There was already a bowl of water waiting for me at our table and the waitress was so friendly to me. I had a long, peaceful snooze on the couch after lunch. Mum and Dad are so happy here and I love cuddling up all three of us together. This place even has Mum and Dad dreaming of opening up their own pub just like this, that would be amazing!
Overall – 4.5