Now, between you and I, I do like the odd gin and tonic on a hot summer’s day. I also like binge drinking in Camden every Friday night and turning up hungover to my weekend retail job every Saturday morning. When my brother’s in town, he looks at me with his beard and Untapped app on his phone and judges my fondness for mass-produced, chemically flavoured faceless cider. He judges my ‘bow, he judges the way I can’t describe the kind of ale I dislike (“sort of orange and bitter like an orange but not as orange”), he judges the way I mispronounce Wychwood. But he loves me, so he perseveres in his quest to convert me to full time real ale drinking.
Camden, the alternative centre of London, is great for veggie food (five – FIVE!!! – vegan eateries – Manna, InSpiral Lounge, the Ha Ha Veggie Bar, Cookies and Scream and a branch of Loving Hut – posts for latter three coming soon). It’s also great for ale, with a number of beer-friendly bars catering to the real ale and craft beer crowd. As well as a branch of Brewdog, which serves up unique craft beers in an industrial setting, there’s a great little bar called the Black Heart. There, my brother spent £27 on two bottles of ale that I described as “fizzy” and “brown”, and I got us some bar snacks.
The Black Heart used to serve pizzas from a local pizza place – a bit samey as local competition Brewdog, who also have a minimalist menu consisting of just pizzas and burgers served up three ways. Now, the Black Heart seems to be running a pop-up kitchen, with different businesses operating a simplified signature menu each month.
December plays host to Mama’s Jerk Station, Caribbean street food aficionados with a passion for all things jerk. We ordered two sides – Mama’s fried plantain and jerk sweet potato wedges, served with tropical mayo and mama’s homemade hot pepper sauce.
Jerk seasoning is brilliant: a hint of sweetness from ginger, fire from the chilli … and then the cooling non-vegan tropical mayo (spiked with lime? mango?) was the perfect antidote to sooth the burn. Although Mama’s Jerk Station is going to be replaced by Kimchi Cult – a Korean street food vendor – soon, Mama’s jerkin’ good grub can be found at several locations around London, including Camden Market. The menu includes several other veggie-friendly options, including a jerk veggie bean wrap, jerk veg and dumpling soup (not vegan) and salads. Jerkin’ brilliant. I’m going to try to check out as many of these pop-up kitchens as I can, so watch this space. Unfortunately, Kimchi Cult came to one of my locals and I don’t seem to recall feeling tempted by the veggie options, if indeed such options existed. Oh well, I’ll do some prowling.