The Rubbing House- Epsom

Last night I went out for a lovely family meal in aid of my Brother’s birthday. When going out with the family we tend to go to gastropub style restaurants and we haven’t found one better than the Rubbing House in Epsom, Surrey which we have returned to on more occasions than not due to their fantastic food, varied menu and reasonable prices.

Located right on Epsom race course the restaurant has a fantastic history attached to it dating back to the 1800’s where they used to rub down the horses after a race, hence the name. This place is a haven in the summer for a drink at the Epsom downs, so if you’re going on a hot day prepare for it to be busy- but for very good reason!

The staff were very pleasant and polite and are very attentive without being intrusive. The restaurant was very busy for a Tuesday night at 7pm, however it wasn’t so busy that you couldn’t enjoy your meal, we were seated straight away and it just added to the atmosphere. One thing to note is that they don’t take bookings so if you’ve got your heart set on eating here be prepared to wait if coming at peak times.

The menu is quite traditional, with my parents opting for liver and bacon and steak and ale pie for their main courses. My brother and I opted for the American style baby back ribs and chicken which was smothered in barbeque sauce and served with chunky chips, salad and coleslaw and was brought up in such scale I challenge anyone to eat all of it! The portions were so large in size I’m very glad I opted not to have a starter and was way too full to manage a dessert (even though they did look delicious!).

The prices are very reasonable here with dinner for the four of us working out to be about £10 per head plus drinks- it was certainly worth every penny and I’m very sure we will be returning here again in future!

The rubbing house is the perfect place for a laid back meal with family and friends who like to eat wholesome food and enjoy each other’s company in countryside surroundings.

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Takari- Covent Garden

Last week we decided to try something a bit different to where we usually go to eat, so decided upon a curry as we haven’t had one in absolutely ages! So I took it upon myself to find somewhere nice we could go which was central to where we all work, so I chose Takari in Covent Garden- I wish I didn’t!

The food in fairness was alright, but was nothing special. The restaurant was practically empty which is quite unusual in the area, as it was prime time for pre theatre eaters and for those like us that were grabbing something to eat straight from work. However, we disregarded this and decided to stay anyway.

My friend likes to drink water alongside her meal rather than fizzy drinks etc, but according to the waiter asking for tap water was unheard of and the water may be ‘dirty’, we’re all from England and have drank tap water since birth so we took the risk!

We continued with our meal which was fine up until the bill came. Firstly, we weren’t allowed to split the bill onto our cards- we have never ever had this problem before and usually saves the problems of sharing out change at the end. So two of my friends had to go and get cash back from M&S and buy a sandwich each costing them even more money.

The bill was very high too, mostly due to the huge 12.5% service charge added to the bill for a pretty rubbish service if I’m honest. The worst part was the 12.5% was taken from the full price of what the food would’ve been if we hadn’t booked with a 50% starters and main meals offer with Toptable. This meant  that the service charge was over £10 for a quick mid week meal! Don’t get me wrong we always tip but they certainly didn’t deserve a tenner and when we questioned this and asked for it to be taken off the bill, the manager became very patronising and rude.

So with the hassle of paying the bill, huge service charge, lack of water, lack lustre food, inflated prices to accommodate their special offer and the zero atmosphere in the restaurant, Takari in Drury Lane, Covent Garden is definitely one to avoid!

The Nag’s Head And Wagamama- Knightsbridge

Last night I walked probably the furthest I have in a very long time. Unfortunately I’m well known to live my life either in and out of my car or hopping off trains, if anyone even suggests walking somewhere longer than the end of the street with me, they are usually greeted with a very dirty look!

However, I’ve realised this isn’t a good way to be and so I’ve started a little health kick and have vowed to walk as much as possible (we’ll see how long this one lasts!). I have now begun walking from Waterloo to Covent Garden each morning which is a really pretty walk across Waterloo Bridge where you can see all of the London landmarks and takes you through theatre land, a part of town I particularly love.

So in the spirit of keeping healthy, when my friend suggested we meet up for a drink and a bite to eat near Hyde Park Corner, I thought I would ditch the crowds of the Piccadilly line and walk to meet her. I’m so glad I did as I walked for nearly two miles, past many London places of interest including: Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, The Ritz and Green Park all of which I rarely see because I’m always underneath it!

Once we met, my friend took me to the cutest little pub I’ve ever seen, called the Nags Head (no not from ‘Only fools and horses!’) off Kinnerton Street, which is on the left if you’re walking towards Knightsbridge from Hyde park. The pub was smaller than a living room with gorgeous ornaments and wall hangings decorating it and had very friendly staff. We sat outside at the front of the pub and enjoyed a drink in the evening sunshine. Drinks were reasonably priced for the area at £2 for a Coke and about £3.50 for a glass of wine. The venue seems to be a regular haunt for business men wanting a drink after work. I thoroughly recommend this quaint pub which looks more like it belongs in a country lane rather than the middle of the capital!

We got a little hungry so headed towards Knightsbridge for some dinner and decided upon Wagamama which is in the basement of Harvey Nichols. The restaurant was very quiet to what I’ve seen at other wagamama restaurants, which was a definitely plus, meaning that we ate our dinner in peace without being squashed on a bench with all the other customers.

The service was very prompt and the food was delicious! My friend had yaki soba which is a chicken and seafood noodle stir fry, whilst I had chicken tama rice which is stir fried chicken, with onions, mushroom and spring onion on a bed of rice. We shared duck dumplings with a cherry sauce to start, which were very moreish!

Overall, I really enjoyed the evening catching up with my friend and finding a few little gems along the way, I’ll definitely be spending some more time in this area in future 🙂

The Bishop and The Rising Sun- One Weekend, Two Pubs, Four Birthdays!

This weekend was packed with birthday parties, Friday night I went to a triple 21st and Saturday I went to a surprise 21st birthday party, both of which I really enjoyed.

Friday’s party took place at a pub along the river in Kingston called the Bishop out of residence, which is tucked away underneath Kingston Bridge and McClusky’s. The pub had a function room upstairs which was perfect as it had its own bar, a space for the DJ, a smoking area and plenty of seating if you weren’t up for dancing and wanted to chat. Drinks were pretty standard prices for Kingston at the weekend, with a vodka cranberry costing about £3.90.

I haven’t been to this pub in a while, as it’s a little out of the way of the main drag, however I’m definitely going to go back. Downstairs in the main bar they had a live band who sounded really good and were a lifesaver at the beginning of the night when the music wasn’t working upstairs at the party; luckily the music filtered through up the stairs so we weren’t all sat in silence until it was fixed!

Saturday’s surprise party took place at The Rising Sun pub in Epsom, which is a really cute and old fashioned pub with a small function room upstairs. This looked like the perfect local for a quiet Saturday evening in the main bar. Upstairs was the perfect size for the party of approximately 50 people, again with its own small bar, we were able to go in early during the day to set up so that everything was sorted prior to the birthday boy’s arrival!

However, the drinks were quite pricey here so after we’d hit the £400 minimum spend at the bar we left to continue the evening in Epsom.

I had a great time at the parties this weekend, seeing lots of old faces and meeting lots of new ones too. The venues were great choices for the kinds of birthday parties wanted and I would recommend both locations for something similar.

The Grange Hotel- St. Paul’s

On Saturday night I was lucky enough to be invited to a ball at the stunning five star Grange Hotel in St. Pauls.  The hotel is very modern in design with contemporary features throughout, which fits in perfectly in the surrounding area, despite being less than a few hundred yards from the beautiful St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The thing many of us commented on the most was how much effort everyone put in to the evening, with some of the dresses worn worthy of the red carpet! Which I thought was really lovely.

The staff were particularly attentive and friendly throughout the hotel, which made the evening run very smoothly. We were served unlimited drinks which included beer and wine until 10 o’clock which was plenty of time to get us all in high spirits!

We enjoyed a sit down dinner after our initial reception and being sat at our tables, which was served buffet style which would suit nearly all tastes. At first I was a bit apprehensive about the buffet, but it made a lot of sense rather than trying to serve more than 200 people at once and it certainly didn’t disappoint! There was a choice of four salads to start, with five or so different main courses and a chocolate brulee and fruit selection for dessert, which really was to die for!

I had a lot of fun at the evening as there was some good entertainment with one of the IBM employees singing and then another being a DJ towards the end; this is despite being dragged up to play ‘Take me out’ where I think the boy in question was shown the red card by most, by as early as the second round I believe, poor thing!

The Grange Hotel is a fantastic place to hold an event such as this or even for a special place to stay for a night to enjoy all that staying in the centre of London has to offer.

A little tip- make sure your cab driver knows where he’s going, my friend took a two hour detour in her cab back to woolwich which should’ve taken half an hour!

Strada

I don’t get to see my best friend very often, as during term time she studies a good 300 miles away, so when we do get the opportunity to meet up it’s a very special occasion.

To mark this we decided to treat ourselves and head over to Jamie Oliver’s restaurant in Kingston called Jamie’s Kitchen. We knew how popular the venue is and that you are unable to book so we made sure we got the restaurant by 7pm. Unfortunately the waitress who met us at the door was very unhelpful and said that we would have to wait 45mins at least for a table, 20 minutes of which would have to be spent outside on a cold April evening and then we’d be allowed to come in and sit at the bar and wait a further 25mins! I suggested that we go for a drink across the road and put our name down on the list, but apparently this is also against their policy! I was very unimpressed by this and so we decided to eat elsewhere.

By this point we had our hearts set on an Italian meal so we went across the road to Charter Quay (restaurant and bar district on the riverside) where we found Strada. This restaurant had a completely different atmosphere, we were seated immediately and the waiters were extremely helpful and chatty, a total change to the stuffy attitudes we experienced at Jamie’s.

The food here is delicious, serving a range of superb Italian dishes. We shared garlic pizza bread to begin with and for our main courses I had Orecchiette Salsiccia e Broccoli pasta, which is spicy sausage, pancetta and broccoli sautéed with chilli butter and grana padano. This dish was very nice however the chilli butter did make it a little bit rich so I couldn’t quite finish it all. My friend had Linguine a la Pescatora which is tiger prawns, mussels, squid and clams in a white wine, garlic, chilli and tomato sauce which she thoroughly enjoyed. For dessert I indulged in Fondente al cacao which is a warm chocolate pudding which melted in the middle with vanilla ice cream on top, whilst my friend enjoyed a cappuccino.

All of this cost just £20 each including soft drinks and mineral water, which I thought was very reasonable for the quality food we were served.

After this we continued our evening in the Slug and Lettuce which is also in Charter Quay, this is a lively over 21’s venue which is the perfect place if you’d like to have a cheeky cocktail in a lively but not too over bearing atmosphere. They do a fantastic 2 for 1 happy hour offer until 10pm on Friday nights.

All in all we had a lovely evening catching up on life despite the little hiccup in the beginning of our evening!

Pizza Express- Leicester Square

When it comes to the end of the month and you’re tight for cash but you don’t want to be a social recluse, Orange really have come up with the answer, Orange Wednesdays! I’m pretty sure everyone is aware of their fantastic 2 for 1 cinema ticket promotion which has been running for years, but did you know you can also use your ticket for Pizza Express?

All you have to do is text ‘Film’ to 241 and you’ll receive a text with a number on it. Then just go to the orange website and print off the corresponding voucher and fill in the number that has been text to you. Do note though, that you should do this in advance, it took about an hour to receive the code through to my phone.

This week I met a friend for a quick lunch at Pizza Express in St. Martin’s Lane, which is a 2 minute walk away from Leicester Square tube station. The restaurant is deceivingly big on the inside which meant although the restaurant was busy; we had no problem at all getting a table in the limited time we had.

I’m not a huge fan of pizza (much to the disgust of many of my friends!) so I opted for the very tasty Pollo Verdure salad which consists of torn chicken on a bed of roasted Italian vegetables, rocket and spinach, with garlic bread on the side. We also took advantage of the free dough balls that you get with the offer as our starter, with extra garlic butter!

The service was very good, as mentioned earlier we were seating promptly and our waitress was very attentive. This was a particular plus as we were eating in our lunch hours and we would have been late back to our desks if the service was slow.

Pizza Express is expanding rapidly and in Central London I could probably count more of the Italian chain restaurants than I can McDonalds! As a result of this, they are able to provide great tasting food for a very reasonable price due to their vast economies of scale.

This was the perfect place for a quick catch up with a friend over a bite to eat if you’re not a fan of fast food. Two courses and a drink each came to under £15 for both of us, absolute bargain!

If you’re not an orange customer there are plenty of ways to eat at a discounted rate here, either with your taste London card or with the numerous vouchers available on websites such as student beans and myvouchercodes.com

Prezzo

After feeling pretty poorly over the last week, I decided to do something slightly less energetic than I usually would on a Saturday night to aid my recovery. So the girls and I decided to see what all the hype was about and of course swoon over Johnny Depp, in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

Before we saw the film, we needed to find somewhere nearby to the cinema where we could get a cheap bite to eat, alas a fantastic new voucher for Prezzo entered my inbox, just at the right time!

Prezzo is a chain of fantastic Italian restaurants which has expanded across the country in the last couple of years; similar restaurants include Zizzi and Ask.

Prezzo always have some offer or discount available, so it’s definitely worth checking their website regularly for the latest deal or signing up to their mailing list like I did. We visited Prezzo in Kingston upon Thames, which is upstairs inside the Rotunda. The restaurant was packed out by 7.00pm, when we arrived and considering the wide choice of restaurants in the local area, this had to be a good sign!

Our vouchers meant that we could have two courses and a drink for just £10 each, an absolute bargain! However, the menu is restricted for this reason but provided enough choice for us to still have a lovely meal and catered for all our tastes. To start you have a choice of breads that includes: bruschetta, garlic, mozzarella and garlic. Main meals consisted of a choice of about four pasta dishes, four pizzas and two salads. You have a choice of beer, wine or a soft drink to compliment the meal. I chose garlic bread to start with spaghetti and meatballs for my main with a red wine all of which I would highly recommend.

The service was very good and very prompt, which was a definite plus, as we only had an hour to eat our meal before the film began. The bustling atmosphere was great too; we particularly liked watching the chefs make the pizzas over in the corner of the restaurant!

If I were to go back to Prezzo again, I wouldn’t have such a rushed meal (entirely our fault) and would enjoy the restaurant experience more, perhaps over a bottle of wine rather than a glass or perhaps even with a cheeky dessert thrown in too!

Rubicon- Surbiton

A bar that I’ve been meaning to write about for a while is a little gem that’s tucked behind Surbiton high street down Maple Road. Rubicon is a small cocktail bar which is a great place for somewhere that’s a bit different to what you’d usually find in the area.

Cocktails are their speciality, with bartender cocktails such as your classic ‘sex on the beach’ being served with a more suburban twist; these are priced at £6.50 each, so the bar isn’t cheap- make sure you come out with plenty in your purse! If you fancy something a bit more special, champagne cocktails such as ‘strawberry sky’ are available for £7. They have an extensive wine list with an average bottle of wine priced at £15 each.

We pre- booked a section of the bar for a birthday with a party of 20 people, which was provided free of charge with no hassle. The bar manager was very attentive and made sure that we had everything that we needed to enjoy our evening. We didn’t order any food, however there is an impressive looking party buffet menu available, making this the perfect place to hire out for a party.

Rubicon also offers themed evenings during the week including comedy nights, supper club and cocktail club; check the website for details of particular events.

The bar does get pretty full on a Saturday night before people go off clubbing in nearby Kingston, so I recommend going early. Overall I think this is a great place to go for a drink without the hustle and bustle of Kingston party goers, but is also a bit livelier than some of the pubs in Surbiton high street, the perfect balance.

Jewel And Ruby Blue

Last week had yet another birthday in the diary and to celebrate ten of us went off to Jewel Bar in Piccadilly for a few cheeky after work drinks before heading out to eat. Their website really couldn’t say it any better when they described it,

“Jewel Piccadilly is a chic, luxurious bar & Club located in the heart of the West End. It has become a regular haunt for both celebrities and beautiful people alike to socialise, party and unwind.”

As soon as you walk in your eyes are immediately drawn to the luxurious décor and beautiful chandeliers. Surprisingly, the bar was pretty full, even though it was a ‘school night’ and it apparently gets packed over the weekend due to its huge popularity- you have been warned! They have the usual happy hour offers with half price drinks between 5pm and 8pm Monday to Friday.

We originally planned to head off to Cha cha moon for dinner, which is a wagamama style noodle bar, however we couldn’t book and due to the large size of our party we didn’t want to have to wait a long time for a table. After racking our brains for somewhere else to go, we headed towards Leicester Square and Ruby Blue who seated us immediately.

Ruby Blue is a restaurant, bar and club all in one and is tucked around the corner of Leicester Square. As you climb the stairs and enter the restaurant on the right, you’re greeted by a stylish, girly and light décor which is very welcoming, we all commented on how nice the art work was! If you go off to the bar on your left it looks like a totally different venue, decorated in red and black with leather sofas perfect for a classy place to go for a drink.

The food here was delicious with a wide and varied menu, which was perfect for such a large party with varying tastes. The camembert to start, with Fajitas as a main was a real hit with the girls however, I opted for Italian bread and oils with BBQ ribs for my main, which were equally tasty choices.

The restaurant was very accommodating to the birthday celebrations, as we brought our own birthday cake and they kept it in secret, bringing it out instead of dessert with no hassle whatsoever.

The best part was the price! The menu is pretty reasonable with an average main course costing about £11 however we had a Taste London card meaning that we got 50% off food, add this to half price wine before 8pm and we were on to a winner! We had six bottles of wine between us and two courses each; it all came to just £13 each, which is a pretty amazing price for a merry evening in the West End!

I would recommend Ruby Blue to anyone, particularly for a birthday like this or for a cheap pre theatre meal.

Jewel Bar Picadilly