Fireman Sam

Based in the Old Fire Station right next to Tottenham Town Hall, #ChickenTown has apparently been open for business for almost 2 years! The concept (taken from their website) states “because we’re a social enterprise: we serve up our affordable, healthy and tasty food not for a profit, but for the benefit of the local community.”

We like to support our own so with this in mind the @ManDemVFood decided to check it out and show some community spirit.

SWEET TOOTH: I was the first to arrive at @chickent0wn (ha ha in your face #PepperMan) and the place was rather dull and completely empty. Not sure if that’s a good or bad sign for a Thursday evening. I was seated by the waitress Kyra, who was polite and welcoming, offering me a drink straight away and brought over a jug of water and some glasses and menus for the table… she seemed on the ball. Most of the #ManDem arrived shortly after, except #TheManager who was quite late, unusual for him.

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Once he arrived we ordered the starters straightaway… wings of course! At chicken town there were two types, BBQ wings and Korean style, we had both. Each was tasty, but the Korean stood out for me as the flavour was more intense, plus I could manage them as they weren’t hot as their description suggested but had a little kick, more like what a generous addition of black pepper tastes like.

For my main I opted for the pieces (you get the leg + breast part of the chicken with a choice of crumb) rather than a burger and chose the “Fancy Pants”, which is a rosemary salt and lemon crumb flavour. This came with 2 sides for £10, so I added sweet potato wedges and onion rings. The presentation left a lot to be desired but hopefully that wasn’t reflected in the taste. The chicken had a good flavour coating but the meat itself, although succulent, was flavourless. The sweet potato wedges were basically a bowl of mashed sweet potato pieces with their skin on, no solid form or shape to them at all.  The onion rings also had a nice flavour coating but were too greasy so I only ate one. I was deeply disgruntled with my meal. I am undecided whether I should give them another try or just add them to the “at least I tried it” pile.

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THE MANAGER: I arrived late, but hey ho! I’m the manager! I wish, got a cussing because the mandem were hungry, as Bob Marley said ….. “a hungry man is an angry man”

We all looked at the menu and regardless of where we go we order wings, whether they are hot wings or bingo wings. We seem to be turning into chicken wing experts!

Wings arrived and looked promising, not well presented I may add, but maybe it was a no thrills ting, and it was all about the taste like the wings we had at #Boomburger. I dived in, and first thing was the wings weren’t hot, as in freshly fried, baked, cooked (however they prepare them), but I can’t say they lacked in taste. I will say that the Korean wings were awesome, mentioned to #CheeseLover that these wings were on par with those that we had at #clutch! Man shot me down quick (but they are imo).

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I went on to order a side of Macaroni cheese, cheesy jalapeño chips, and an SAS (smokey and spicy chicken burger with coleslaw, lime mayo and a slice of cheddar). Sigh! was I disappointed, the chips and the burger again were not fresh to the point that they were not hot, possibly below Luke warm, I mean how can chips not be hot when they come straight out of the kitchen? It’s not like the restaurant was full and the place was bustling with people and vibes! The macaroni cheese was OK, I can’t say more than that, very cheesy and yes it was hot, but no wow factor, nothing that makes me want to tell you “Go NOW and taste this dish from Chicken Town”, it was just ok. Would I have it again? Yeah, if Nando’s wasn’t close.

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On to the SAS Burger, for me anything that is named after the Special Air Service should be dangerous, spicy hot like a #whitemencantjerk chicken wing, or the taste profile should be soooooo intense due to secret ingredients that my mind is blown away! But no, it was just a chicken sandwich, the bun was burnt, and as stated before the chicken in the burger was warm, not hot. It was supposed to be smokey and spicy, tasted neither, SAS more like Dad’s Army if you ask me!

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PEPPER MAN: I was going to order the SAS chicken burger, but when I heard The Manager order it, I swiftly changed my mind, kept it basic and chose the classic burger. This comes filled with coleslaw and a slice of cheese. As you already know, chicken and cheese doesn’t make sense to me so i made sure they didn’t include it in my burger. As soon as my burger came I was surprised of how basic it really was. It reminded me of one of those 1 minute microwave burgers. It was a fat piece of chicken (the thigh) but the circumference was small. I took a bite and it was nothing special. If I’m being totally honest I would have preferred a fillet burger from #KFC. A couple more bites and the burger was done. Very disappointing. I didn’t order fries so that was my meal done. They’re just lucky their Korean wings are banging otherwise I would have been fuming.

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CHEESE LOVER: Chicken Town… it was so poor I don’t want to write about it! I have had better burgers from a disposable BBQ! Probably the worst burger I’ve ever had! I’m never going back! They should sack the chefs, close down the restaurant and let the firemen back in to make better use of the building!

“Manager intervention”

He refused to comment further on the food and the restaurant, and stands by the idea that it should be turned back into a fire station, however for the insubordination he will face a formal investigation!

OVERALL: The Man Dem love the idea of the concept of Chicken Town, especially the Junior Special options, where they use the profits for the main meals to enable them to provide meals for the young people in the area at a price similar to the more ‘traditional’ chicken shops in the area from as little as £2 for a more healthy version of what these young people love. Great idea!

However, we feel they need to work on the taste of the food as if it stays as it is, they may not last long in this battle for the young people’s custom. Granted we attended in the evening which is outside the timespan that the Junior Special is offered so we have no idea how busy it gets during that time on a daily basis, but considering it was a Thursday evening it didn’t get much busier as the night went on, which isn’t a good sign. We hope, for the young people, the community and the sake of the business that the empty place in the evening isn’t a mimic of it’s daily custom.

SCORE: 1 out of 6 mandems

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Boom Shake The Room

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Still excited from the #NottingHillCarnival vibes the mandem wanted one more taste of their Caribbean heritage and @boomburger seemed just the place! Located in the heart of the carnival route it is calling out to be visited and what better time than now in the bask of Carnival week.

As soon as you step inside you can clearly see this is more of a take away place rather than a dine in restaurant. They literally only have 2 booths in there that can seat about 7-8 each. They don’t take reservations so you have to just turn up and hope you can get a seat or failing that just take it away. They do have outside seating for about 15-20 people but who wants to be sitting outside in this confused English weather.

Luckily for us, both inside booths were available for us to utilise so we were able to eat in. The music was so loud though, we couldn’t hear each other speak. Clearly another sign that this isn’t for dining.

Anyway on to the food…

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STARTERS: After the #hotwingchallenge evening we did with @whitemencantjerk some of the Man Dem have a lust for the heat of a well done chicken wing!

Both our mains and starters all arrived at the same time, and as much as we wanted to tuck straight into our burgers, we started slowly on the wings. We ordered two types, Jerk Wings, they called them sticky wings, and Boom wings.

We all tasted the Boom wings first… they were dry and crispy, perfectly fried chicken, piping hot, made from a quality grade of chicken. The first bite could only be described as dipping your full body in a bath that was set to just the temperature you like it and as you enter you make that “Ahhhhhhhh” sound. The wings were actually “boom”!!

The other type was the sticky wings, we were expecting these to blow off our heads, but no, these wings were the same as the Boom Wings but with a Jerk sauce covering them, the sauce was perfect, if you’re not one for very spicy food these are for you, but in saying that if you like a little kick and love the jerk flavour these are also for you, we’d actually visit Boom Burger just for the wings, that’s how good they are in our view.

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SWEET TOOTH: The ironic thing for me is that I passed @boomburger on Carnival Monday and thought to myself “aahh this is where it is… I must come n visit soon” so imagine how immediately enthused I was about finally visiting there as I’ve heard nothing but good things about the place. I arrived at this Reggae Shack looking place 30 mins late (bloody #TfL 😤) and had to stop n check I wasn’t in sunny #Jamaica as it reminded me of many a roadside eatery out there. #Dancehall playing in the background n a jovial greeting from the man dem already inside. Two two fist bump n a couple of nods later The Manager said, “Boy you better order quick, man dem have ordered already star!”

A quick peruse of the menu and I knew I wanted the Stamp & Go (aka saltfish fritters) for starters but unfortunately they had run out of the fritters #KMT #vex and the rest of the #mandem had already ordered both sets of wings to share so that was that!

For my mains I ordered the Jerk Boom (a burger highlighted as ‘popular’ on the menu) with plantain fries… wait, what… Wha ya mean plantain fries?! Do you mean actual fries made of plantain or do you mean plantain chips… man needs to know! Actually, who cares I’m ordering them same way… will see what they are when they arrive init!

The food arrived and to my surprise the chicken in the Jerk Boom was not a breast fillet/burger as expected it would be better described as pulled jerk chicken. #levels The meat was tender and succulent and seasoned VERY well. It was so full of flavour I had to pause and ask myself “Did i just die and go to #foodheaven or what?” then combined with the bed of fried plantain and rocket and topped off with the mango and paw paw sauce, it was like my taste buds were still chipping down the road in carnival holding the #sweetestwhine lol #amazing

The plantain fries were… #drumrollplease …actual fries! Think hand cut potato fries but made of plantain! I know it’s hard to comprehend but that’s exactly what they were. They were not too greasy, as you might expect when plantain is fried and had the crisp outside and soft inside you’d expect from a potato chip shop chip but of course slightly sweet, being that it was plantain. An innovative dish that I would easily have again.

In fact, writing this review I think I’m going back today!!

PEPPER MAN: Obviously I was there first as I’m always on time. The reggae music was blaring out at carnival decibel levels which kept me entertained until everyone else arrived. I came to boom burger a couple of months back and since then I’ve always wanted to come back. I managed to sneakily persuade the mandem to venture out of the manor to #NottingHill, well #PortobelloRoad to be exact and try it for themselves.

I know we covered the starters already but I have to mention the sticky wings were a little bit spicy but after man recently completed the #WMCJ hot wings challenge man can deal with that no problem. I think they were the boom wings with jerk/BBQ sauce. Weirdly enough I would still choose the boom wings over the sticky wings though. Not because of the spice but because you can taste the chicken flavour more in the boom wings. The sauce on the sticky wings takes away the succulent chicken flavour.

Bacon Boom Burger – absolutely delicious. I asked them to add plantain for the sweetness and…mate! It was amazing. I didn’t order chips (on a diet) and I was seriously considering buying another one. It was that good. The sweetness of the plantain, the salty flavour from the bacon and the creamy melted cheese over the medium cooked beef Pattie was truly delightful.

If boom burger was local to me I’m pretty sure I would forget the diet and be ordering every week!

CHEESE LOVER: Pepper Man looked at the menu and told me what I was ordering the ‘Cheesy Boom’. He was correct, although the ‘Mad Boom’ did catch my eye.

Presentation was nothing special, but let’s not judge a book by its cover! The Burger arrived in a healthy size, but not too big to pick up with my hands, which I prefer to cutting it in half.

This was probably the softest brioche bun ever! Soft that the first time I picked up the burger, the patty almost slipped out because my fingers just sunk into the bun without a firm grip. Very good start once I trained myself to hold the burger. Please can any other bun type be banned! #Brioche only.

So the ‘Cheesy Boom’ looked ok, the bun felt deluxe, but how did it taste? In one word #marvellous! On a par with some of my favourites over at @byronburger and @pattyandbun. Slightly messy like #Pattyandbun but manageable. Succulent with every bite, well seasoned bun, every bite was a delight.

The piece de resistance was the plantain strips, which gave the burger a tangy sweet after taste. The first time I had experienced plantain in this fashion was in the #legendary @dubplateskitchen Curry Goat Slider, which is still my first choice Caribbean influenced burger or slider.

The ‘Cheesy Boom’ comes close to the #Dubplateskitchen’s slider, I would return for more.

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THE MANAGER: For me carnival was still in the air, a lil back pain from whining a few females but hey, BOOM BURGER, let’s be honest nothing to look at from the outside but we had heard lots about this spot.

I was starving (as always) but was taken by two burgers on the menu, the Jerk Boom burger, and the Boom Cheese burger! I was in two minds to order both but I’m on a diet, and not the “see food” diet either. I was also interested in the wings, after the Hot Wing challenge we did with @whitemencantjerk I have a lust for the heat of a well done chicken wing! Talking of the starters the wings were that good to the point that in the portion I probably ate more than my fair share, (shhhhhh don’t tell them, bah I’m The Manager I don’t care!)

On to the Burger, I watch as they lightly toasted the burger bun and my immediate thought was “they’re not gonna be soft”, but how wrong I was, considering the food arrived at the same time and we started on the wings first, the burger bun was still soft, light and purposeful.

I have one rule when it comes to food that I rarely break, and that is no fruit in food, but the Jerk Boom consists of a bed of plantain plus a Mango and Paw Paw sauce! First bite…… remember what was said about a perfectly run bath that you slip into? It was that sensation for me, for a second or two with all the flavours in my mouth I found myself contemplating the universe, understanding the end of inception (he was awake) due to the fact that the taste combinations complimented each other perfectly thus unlocking a part of my brain that enabled me to see food (or that burger) in the same way Neo saw the matrix! Amazing!

The Jerk part of the burger was chicken, lightly jerked so not over bearing and it was almost chopped so I couldn’t say it was a whole cut of chicken which was in the burger, but it worked none the less. My one critique would be the fries, again perfectly fried BUT a little bit too much salt for my liking, hopefully the fries were a one-off and the chef was a lil heavy-handed with the salt.

 

SERVICE: The venue doesn’t really have a waitered service to speak of, more of a #Nandos type setup where you basically go up to the till to order and the food is brought to you at your table, and cleared for you when finished or you can takeaway if you wish. With that in mind the staff were not overbearing and still asked if we needed anything else.

Nothing like the generally stereotyped Caribbean establishment, service in Boom Burger was quick iyah! #roundofapplause The wings and the rest of the man dem’s orders arrived promptly, piping hot and at the same time with the last order arriving only a few minutes behind the rest even though it was ordered a good 10 minutes after the first set. The man dem hadn’t even finished the first set of wings by the time the last order came! To the guys @BoomBurger, the @mandemvfood commend you!

OVERALL: The food in Boom Burger is just as the name suggests… #BOOM
Whether you’re a local to the area or live further out, there is no excuse for you to not go there! Even vegans and vegetarians can get a munch. #MDVF give their seal of approval so go grab a bite. You won’t regret it… trust the man dem on this one!

SCORE: the 5.5 out of 6 Man Dems

Pepper Man’s Revolution

During the weekly MDVF whatsapp group catch up, Absurd Bird was mentioned for the @ManDemVFood team to visit! Immediately in BOLD capital letters ‘The Manager’ said, “Long, we ain’t going!”, the rest of the team were shocked at his swift and abrupt response. We all asked “Why?”, but as he was ‘typing…’ ‘Pepper Man’ quickly posted in an attempt to overthrow management… “It’s booked, and I’ve paid a deposit” (Which was a lie but sometimes needs must!) The rest of the #mandem were excited… well, except ‘The Vegan 🙄‘. All we’re getting from him are random angry emojis! The team were confused… “What’s wrong with you, talk up!” said ‘The Manager’. ‘The Vegan 🙄 ‘ responded: “It’s not fair! You man posting all these menus with pure meat on them and i’m here tryna do this Vegan ting… do you know how hard it is and you lot ain’t helping!” – If you ever saw the lol’s and teasing that ensued after that!!
Read on to find out if Absurd was worthy of Pepper Man’s rebellious act, or did he get thrown into the gallows. Is ‘The Vegan 🙄‘ still a Vegan or did he turn up and eat meat?

FOOD:
STARTER: The man dem decided to go for the #wings, which started a debated about what flavours to choose. After a quick consultation with our waitress we decided on “Wild Wing Flavour of the Month” aka BBQ Moonshine, Crispy Fried Buttermilk and Smoked Garlic Parmesan & Lemon (Sweet Tooth was wholeheartedly against this option but got out voted… he wasn’t happy!  😤).

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The wings came late, and at different intervals which was annoying.

The buttermilk wings arrived first. They were plain as white paper, no art, no creativity. Just fried in batter than actual seasoned chicken, it was like biting into a small pack of homepride flour! What does it take to add a little more seasoning to the flour before frying, or, low and behold seasoning the chicken before frying!!!!! They were basically wings dipped in buttermilk batter n fried crisp, no flavour, no seasoning, nothing PLAIN!… We’re still trying to work out if there was even a little salt & pepper on them!
To show you how plain they were, we were given a free extra portion of the buttermilk wings, due to the delays waiting for the other flavours and we didnt even finish them. Usually we are fighting over the last wing and end up playing ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’.

Finally the Smoked Garlic Parmesan & Lemon arrived. They were lightly fried, and then covered in the garlic and parmesan coatin. These wings had a strong cheese flavour, with a kick of sourness from the lemon. ‘Sweet Tooth’ screamed “Yuck! Who thought of this combination? I mean I’ve never agreed that cheese goes with chicken in the first place and this just heightens my belief. Chicken & cheese DOES NOT GO!”. Meanwhile the rest of the team disagreed “Nah man cheese goes with everything!” . General consensus was this batch of wings was passable, but didn’t leave us wanting more. The cheese was a little over bearing.

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The pick of the litter, sorry, we mean bunch and the saviour of our Absurd starter experience, were the BBQ Moonshine wings. Fried crispy wings smothered in the Absurd Moonshine sauce (basically the Absurd version of #JackDaniels BBQ sauce) and topped with sesame seeds. Not the most intense taste and not as good as @TGIFridays sauce but still a pleasant flavour. We actually got to taste the chicken and it’s quality. Definitely the best of the bunch.

MAINS:
THE VEGAN 🙄: As I am in the process of giving up meat, when we go out I usually get the veggie option (obviously) but I have been having withdrawal symptoms, and when I saw the menu my mouth started dribbling, memories of the good old meat days came flooding back into my taste buds. So I thought what the heck, “YOLO”… Absurd could be worth a cheat day.

For my mains I got a barbecue pulled chicken burger and since I hadn’t eaten chicken in a while I was excited, a little gassed even… like a kid who had been grounded for 2 months that was finally given the green light to play out.

First bite of the burger did not fulfill the excitement I felt. Instead I was deflated to an unenthused, I’m hungry and this will fill the gap feel 😐. No excitement, this is not how I remember the ‘good old meat days. I have personally made better chicken burgers and I’m not even a chef, I’m an electrician! 🙈. For me, #meatmission is still the No. 1 chicken burger around! Absurd was a waste of cheat day!

PEPPER MAN: This time I didn’t want to take any risks. I was hungry and I wanted something I knew I would like and would satisfy my growling stomach. I chose the crispy fried chicken burger which comes with fries. To wash it down I requested a rekorderlig (strawberry & lime obviously).

The food took slightly longer than I would have liked and when my main came I was praying that this was going to convince me that it was just the wings that were bad. I took my first bite and half of the contents of the burger fell out the other side. I put it all back together and gave it another try.

The burger was not amazing. I wouldn’t go as far as saying horrible or disgusting but definitely not something I would go back for. I would much prefer A #KFC chicken fillet burger. This burger didn’t have the finger licking flavours you would want from a burger. It was a dry, tasteless chicken breast and coleslaw in a bun. The chicken was very crunchy so maybe it was over fried (is that even a thing?) Overall, I wouldn’t go back to this place as nothing did it for me.

CHEESE LOVER: I haven’t had a slider since visiting @sliderbar_ldn at @streetfeastldn and @AbsurdBirdUK had a mixture of dirty buns and sliders. Both the same size but the dirty bun was those white soft Japanese Buns often associated to eating #DimSum. I was in a dilemma, the fillings that were attracting my attention were all dirty buns 🙈, but I have never had Japanese food before! This was the most difficult decision of my food blogging life! After much deliberation and a google of fillings I went for 3 dirty buns…

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1. Marinated grilled chicken dirty bun with honey mustard mayo and pickled Asian slaw. Loved it, and this Japanese bun has opened up my palate to trying out more Asian food other than pad Thai lol. The fillings complimented the chicken so well, could the other dirty buns match up?

2. Pulled Chicken dirty bun with shredded spring onion, cucumber and sesame seeds. The flavours didn’t have as much impact on me as number 1, but admittedly it was a hard act to follow.

3. Fried chicken dirty bun with sriracha mayo, picked cucumber and pickled onion. Now was number 3 going to leave me regretting not ordering 3 marinated chicken dirty buns (number 1) or would it come through and blow the competition away?

Well, let me just say this… I had no clue what ‘sriracha’ is, but I do now! I need to have this sauce on everything, I hope @costco stock it 🙏. This was the tastiest miniature burger I have ever tasted, the flavours had me drooling for more, wishing it was a full size burger. Definitely coming back for this!

THE MANAGER: For some reason I was excited about this one, even though I vowed never to return to an Absurd bird location due to the service I received from the Soho branch on a solo trip, but hey, the #mandemvfood talked me round, and we compromised after the overthrow attempt. Pepper Man your revolt has been noted, and will be sent to the gallows if Absurd wastes my time again.

For the main I had the Nashville Hot Chicken Burger, yeah I’m not Pepper Man but I like a likkle heat. To accompany the burger I had the Jalapeño Mac and Cheese, with a portion of sweet potato fries.

Sooooo, the burger, man o man, to say it was good would be an understatement, the chicken was well cooked / fried. I can’t say it was perfect, as perfect would be a burger cooked and served by Alicia Keys while she played the piano singing “fallin” to me, but it was good!

You could taste the chicken as well as the light seasoning that it had been cooked with, also the spicy elements of the garnish, not overly hot so if you expect to be blown away, that won’t happen. The down side to the burger was the fact that it did not (to my knowledge) have a brioche bun, and for me if you want to be in the Premier Burger League category, brioche bun is a must have, the same as salt and vinegar, rum and ting, chicken and jerk these things go hand in hand. My question is; “Whose idea was it NOT to have a brioche bun? Huh?” I’ll wait!

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The Mac n Cheese was pleasant, very flavoursome, however not the best I have tasted. That crown, at the moment, belongs to the guys over at @dirtybones, but let’s not digress, The Macaroni was a tad over cooked but that’s me being picky, it’s something I would have again but not in a hurry. As for the Sweet Potato fries, well again, not the best I’ve had. Sweet potato fries are one of those things in my eyes you can’t get wrong and one of those things that no matter how full I am I will finish them, with that, I didn’t finish these, why I hear you ask! I’m not sure… something was missing I guess maybe they weren’t hot enough, or crispy enough but they just weren’t up to the standard I am used to.

SWEET TOOTH: For my main, after much temptation from the Grilled Chicken n Chicken & Waffles, I finally decided on the 3 Dirty Buns or Sliders for £10.50 option. Sliders are basically mini burgers, made with mini brioche rolls in this case. Cheese Lover described Dirty Buns earlier

I chose the Fried Chicken Slider (with bacon jam and pimento cheese), Marinated Grilled Chicken Dirty Bun (with honey mustard mayo and pickled Asian slaw) and Fried Chicken Dirty Bun (with Sriracha mayo, pickled cucumber and pickled onion). Each had their own distinct taste and were delicious.

The Marinated Grilled Chicken Dirty Bun was a pleasant surprise as I’m not usually a fan of honey mustard mayo but this along with the Asian slaw complimented the delicately cooked grilled chicken perfectly then placed in a dirty bun rather than the mini brioche roll was definitely the right decision… genius!

The Fried Chicken Slider was a piece of fried chicken breast in batter with a jam that reminded me of a thick sweet chilli sauce and gave that same texture sensation when you tasted it but with a salty sweet taste instead. The combination of textures with the soft bun, crunch and tenderness of the chicken, salt / sweet of the jam n slight kick from the pimento cheese made for a party of flavours in my mouth… Excellent!

The Fried Chicken Dirty Bun was the same chicken as the slider version. Sriracha mayo for those that don’t know is Sriracha sauce (a chilli paste, vinegar and garlic sauce) mixed with mayo therefore taming the ‘heat’ and making for a deliciously flavoured dressing. Not being a fan of traditional mayo I was dubious but decided the Sriracha (even though I had no idea what it was at the time) would make it taste different so worth a try. What a gamble!! The slider was VERY nice. The combination of the chicken’s textures along with this great Sriracha sauce, the pickled cucumber and onion made for a delightful piquant mouthful with every bite… Amazing!

If I had to put them in order of favourite I would say, Fried Chicken Slider, Fried Chicken Dirty Bun then Marinated Grilled Chicken Dirty Bun. All 3 were delicious and I wish they were full sized burgers even though I know I couldn’t manage to eat them all if they were! Definitely try these if you visit.

DESSERT:
Being the sweet tooth of the group (it is in the name after all lol) Sweet Tooth craved dessert, especially because milkshakes were off the menu due to a faulty machine. However, with a little help from the waitress he persuaded the #ManDem to get involved in “The Dipsy”. Described on the menu as “The ultimate tear’ n share! Warm and fluffy brioche, baked-to-order and served with creme anglaise, caramel & chocolate dipping sauce” – sounds great, right… Like who could resist that?? Wrong! It was mediocre at best. Not really very sweet and the sauces were nothing special, although the caramel gets a special mention as it was the nicest of the 3 sauces. The dessert overall was a disappointment and didn’t fill the void of the lack of milkshake. The man dem weren’t best pleased with the extra expense.

SERVICE: Service in this establishment seemed very hit and miss. For example, we were seated almost immediately but then were given our starters at lengthy differing intervals. The waitress was pleasant, professional and knew her menu, but still got the odd thing wrong. She got the timing of the mac n cheese wrong, it came with the starters. This was replaced with a new batch with the mains with no hesitation which was outstanding service. According to the staff the service problems were down to them having a short notice party of 50 in the downstairs segment of the restaurant but we can’t help but wonder… Should that really affect service in the rest of the establishment? 🤔

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OVERALL: Absurd seems to be a bit like #marmite either you love it or you hate it. There are definitely some stand out items on the menu, but hard to say if they are potent enough to entice you to go back in a hurry. As nice as some of the dishes are, you can take or leave a visit. Not to be too harsh on them, maybe the service issue and the party of 50 played a part but it’s also a lot to do with the fact that not many dishes gave us that wow factor and were generally substandard. Not bad for a social evening out as a group, where alcohol and banter takes your attention away from the food, but be warned… you might have to wait a bit! 😳

SCORE: 3 out of 6 mandems

Best Burger Ever!!!

Where is the best burger in London? This is an ongoing argument amongst the @ManDemVFood team.

The Photographer prefers @meatgram. Sweet Tooth can’t get enough of @dirtyburgerldn. The Manager thinks no one does better burgers than @fiveguysuk. Cheese Lover is obsessed with @pattyandbun. The Vegan 🙄 just craves any burger with real meat in it and not #quorn. And finally Pepper Man… Pepper Man took a random shopping trip to Reading, stumbled across @handmadeburgerco and ever since has been banging on about being “The best burger EVER!” whenever the ‘Best burger in London’ debate is re-visited, despite it being out of London. 😄

The rest of the lads had never heard of #handmadeburgerco or their alleged 40 varieties of #burgers.

There were only so many months we could keep ignoring Pepperman’s Handmade burger rhetoric, especially when he found out there is a branch in #Wembley. So The Manager and Cheese Lover reluctantly agreed to put Handmade Burger to the test and took a visit to North West London with Pepper Man.

However, if the burgers are no better than @mcdonalds Cheese Lover wants some petrol money for his long journey around the A406.

Did Pepper Man end up at the nearest petrol station with his hand in his pocket or is there another contender in the Man Dem V Food’s pursuit to find London’s best burger?

PEPPER MAN: It’s been a long time coming but the time is finally here. I’ve managed to convince the #mandem to travel a lil further out than they would like to and head to Wembley. What’s in Wembley they say? Handmade Burger Company. I went to their other branch in Reading a while ago and oh my gosh. BEST BURGERS EVER!! Yea I said it. I’ve laid my cards on the table.

I ordered the HBC Cheese & Bacon. The burger consisted of a single beef patty, cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onions and BBQ sauce all sandwiched between what we were lead to believe was a fresh #handmade buttermilk bun. For a side I felt daring and opted for the newly added Mexican chips. These were thick cut like the ones you get in a fish & chip shop. The reason why they’re called Mexican chips is because they are topped with melted cheese, salsa, chipotle sauce, hand crushed avocado and jalapeños.

The chips were dead! Simple as that. I liked the idea of the cheese, salsa & avocado but in reality they didn’t do it for me. They were really thick so heavy going down and flavourless so adding the extra ingredients helped but not enough. The chipotle sauce was absolutely awful on them. My preference is fries over chips all day all day (Kanye) so i wouldn’t order them again.

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Now the burger, oh gosh, I had been looking forward to this all day. I dived in like Tom Daley at the #Olympics. My first bite had my eyes rolling back in my head like when you put a cotton bud in your ear and you hit that spot. The beef and bacon along with the BBQ sauce all went together perfectly. But hold on! After a few more bites, I realised this could have been a lot better. Maybe all the excitement got the better of me. Something wasn’t right. I started to think and I came to the conclusion that the chef ever so slightly over cooked the patty. It was a bit tough and chewy, it began to be a task to eat it. Jaw bones working extra hard to break everything down. This was a major disappointment as I was really plugging this place like It was my actual restaurant. I said it had the best burgers EVER… several times! That’s a massive statement, even for me. I hope the others still enjoyed theirs…

THE MANAGER: Pepper Man said “It’s the best burger EVER” and that I would be “overly full”. Hmmmm… that’s a lot to live up to but we shall see. From the menu several burgers and the Hipster chips sounded promising. Although it’s a burger establishment we also partook in a helping of chicken wings, I mean if they are on the menu why would you not get a portion.

So, the wings, apparently seasoned over a long period of time, and come in two different flavours, BBQ and Hot. It was at this point I saw a nervous gleam from the eye of Pepper Man, ah well!

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The wings were almost perfect! As much as I try to find a fault, I can’t. Beautiful texture and grade of chicken. It didn’t fall off the bone so that would suggest they were fried, also the slight, the ever so slight, crispness leans toward a fried wing. The sauces were amazing! In other establishments, it’s as if the wings are soaked in water before cooking or stored in a place where they develop an odd taste, but not these! They were fresh! With a taste sensation that I can only describe as intense, but not over bearing. I’d go back there just for those if the price was a little better, or should I say “pocket friendly”. 👀

The chips! One of the man dem accurately nailed it… “these are pub chips” and I’d have to agree, but in my case they were pub chips with shredded cabbage and a hint of some form of mayonnaise or burger sauce on them. For me, a waste of money, there was no reason for me to pay £1 more for raw cabbage and mayo, the chips were not even crispy man! Not one iota! I would even go as far as to say they were soggy! And not even hot hot either, even @Nandos chips are better!

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On to the Burger, I kept it simple and opted for the Cheese Classic and I can’t fault it, it wasn’t perfect, but I can’t complain, a thick beef patty, with lettuce and tomato (I don’t like tomatoes in burgers), original #HBC burger relish, mayo, red onion with a generous helping of what seemed and tasted like Swiss cheese. There was no option in regard to how I wanted the burger cooked, with that could it have been medium well to add to the flavour? Maybe, the burger bun was (as stated in the menu) #buttermilk which we were excited about, but for me #brioche buns have to be industry standard as they maintain the softness allowing for a perfect compliment to the burger and sauces. I wasn’t overwhelmed but I was definitely not disappointed, however, the Handmade Burger Co need to work on their chip man! Chat bout!

CHEESE LOVER: Pepper Man picked the American BBQ Bacon Stuffed for me (beef patty stuffed with Swiss cheese, topped with smoked bacon, HBC BBQ pit sauce, mayo, shredded iceberg lettuce & red onion with handmade coleslaw, topped with a gherkin). The buttermilk bun caught my eye, usually I like to keep things simple but his experimental ways have influenced me to open up my tastebuds. The only question I had for the waitress was about the Swiss cheese as I have never tasted it before. Her response didn’t instil any confidence, in fact she stated it wasn’t very nice lol.

Despite this place being called ‘Handmade’ burger I wasn’t able to make a straight swap and have cheddar cheese because the cheese is already inside the burger patty. Sounds more like ‘Ready made’ burger to me.

However, the waitress was very accommodating and suggested slightly tweaking the burger patty thus allowing me to change the cheese.

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The burger itself reminded me of #Pogba. It was trying to be the best burger but instead was a young pretender with lots of potential. The ingredients were sourced from a high quality vendor, visually the burger could sit alongside the big boys, but two things let it down. 1. The buttermilk bun was too tough. I will be sticking to brioche in future. 2. The patty was slightly overcooked. Hugely disappointing and if Handmade Burger wants a seat at the ‘Best burger in London’ table they must train their chefs to be consistent!

All I will say about the chips is don’t bother, probably the worst chips I have ever had at a restaurant.

If I was in Wembley buying furniture at @ikea I would pop in for another burger, but based on this experience I would not trek around the A406 just to visit here again.

OVERALL: The service we received was pleasant, honest and efficient. We couldn’t ask for more. S/O to Kristina (our waitress) excellent job. The atmosphere was calm, but with it being Wembley, we assume that on an event day the place would be heaving with people. Unfortunately, the burgers were a slight let down; over cooked is never a good thing when you’re choosing the “best burger” in town.

However, this shouldn’t deter you from giving this place a try. With over 40 different variations of burger on the menu, there’s something for everyone. Pepper Man did state he had never been to the Wembley branch and his views were solely based on the Reading branch. Looks like he’ll still have to fork out for some petrol for a road trip for the mandem to go to Reading to redeem himself.

That might reduce the banter but Pepper Man is still going to get it in the neck for this one… well, until someone else pipes up with another burger place that is. Anyway, the ongoing best burger debate continues…

We give Handmade Burger Co an average but fair 4 out of 6 Man Dems.

http://handmadeburger.co.uk/

The Cat That Got The Cream

Ever scrolled through your @instagram page and realised to the outside world aka your followers, it looks like all you do is rave and take selfies in the gym? 

Well, the @mandemvfood lads were having a ‘digital strategy’ meeting, corporate jargon for; how many times a day should we post pictures on #Instagram 

Whilst checking our ‘engagement analytics’ basically how many people have liked our pictures at different times of the day, we realised that if you haven’t been able to tell from our page so far ( @mandemvfood ) we are carnivores with sweet tooths! We eat a lot of #burgers, #steaks, #turkishfood, #friedchicken and #desserts…

Now, #MDVF do not want to be stereotyped as only reviewing the cuisines mentioned above, we needed to get out there eat other types of food. So we got the props department to build a spin the wheel thingy like the one on #xfactor  and spun the wheel. What did we end up eating?

Pizza! A few of our followers have mentioned that @pizzaeast in trendy #shoreditch opposite #boxpark serves up a terrific pizza, so of course the #mandem had to find out if this was true or not.

FOOD: We all sat at the table and picked up our menus… The silence was real! No one had a clue what the pizza toppings were. Man had to get out phones to google each ingredient. It turns out most of the ingredients we didn’t know were just different varieties of ham. If you’re not a pork eater then maybe coming here for pizza isn’t the best choice for you.

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For starters we ordered the meatballs and of course some garlic bread. Like who has pizza without garlic bread? We tucked into the meatballs first which came as a 3 and were on the large side. They were smothered in a tomato sauce and topped with a little melted cheese which added to the flavour. They were a decent start to our meal.

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As the pizzas were individual servings the man dem have given their own accounts of the different pizza ordered.

Man Dem 1: I opted for the salami, tomato, mozzarella & chilli flakes pizza. When it came I was like “yea this looks alright” I tucked in straight away, it was only after the 3rd bite when the fire of the chilli flakes kicked in. I’ve never drank so much water in such a short space of time in my life. Every bite I took needed a glass of water, the pizza was spicy! Somehow I managed to finish the pizza and it was filling. Was it the best pizza i’ve ever tasted? No, but it wasn’t bad either. For me it missed the wow factor which I was expecting after hearing such positive comments about Pizza East. 

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Man Dem 2: After much deliberation over the menu I still didn’t know what most of the ingredients were so i played it safe and stuck to choosing ingredients I knew. I ordered the  ‘spicy sausage, mozzarella, broccoli and cream’ pizza. But erm wait a minute… “cream”… wha ya mean “cream”? Cue the waiter… “can you explain this pizza to me please bruv?!” Yes it was cream, as in cream you pour over your dessert or put in your coffee and that was in place of the usual tomato base! Hold on, I am supposed to be playing it safe here… “yeah change it for a tomato base please bruv!!” #phew

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I was dubious about the broccoli as a pizza topping and was in two minds about whether to take it off the order, even asking for it to be removed but changing my mind last minute instructing the waiter to leave it on. I thought I might as well try to keep some originality of this pizza given that I had already changed the base. MISTAKE!!! If you are not that adventurous like me, trust your instincts. Broccoli on pizza does not go according to my taste buds! Other than the broccoli I found the pizza to be quite tasty. However overall the pizza was nothing special, average! It can’t touch #pizzaexpress for taste and dare i say it even #dominos is better!! #gulp

The dessert, now that’s a different story! As mentioned earlier we love everything sweet! Being one of the more sweet toothed Man Dem in the group I had to at look at the dessert menu! Two items jumped out at me… the ‘cinnamon doughnuts’ and the ‘apple & blackberry crostata with mascarpone gelato’ aka apple & blackberry lattice pie with mascarpone ice cream. Man had to have the pie and the rest of the mandem succumbed to the pressure  and also ordered doughnuts for the table.

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The crostata was delightful! Made with light flaky pastry which had a crunchy sugar layer under the base of it ( nice touch #pizzaeast ) and proper chunks of apple with whole blackberries rather than the mashed up berry mess you would usually get on this flavour of pie. Excellently flavoured… sweet but not sickly sweet with an undertone of that fruity tang that is always nice in a fruit pie and then sparingly dusted with icing sugar. The gelato was smooth and creamy tasting like an ice cream version of a cheesecake topping with a hint of vanilla flavour. A very nice dessert! Compliments to the chef on that one!

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The flavour of the cinnamon doughnuts was just right. However they were extremely light and fluffy making them too airy. So much so that once you bit into one you came across an air pocket where you would be expecting to bite into more dough. The chocolate dipping sauce complimented the doughnuts well.

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Man Dem 3: So… I opted for the Veal meatball pizza, like Man Dem’s 2 pizza this also had a cream base. Rather than run from the cream like Man Dem 2 did just because it was a bit different, I jumped in studs first with a two footed tackle and took everything with me, cream base and all. 

The toppings away from the veal were basic, a cured ham, a mix of herbs and generous portions of what looked like cooked Parma ham, I was informed that is was actually prosciutto. Quite simply this pizza worked! Surprisingly the flavours complimented each other. I would have loved to say ‘perfectly’ but for my taste the ham, or prosciutto was a little too salty. However, for the price, could I have gotten better from Papa Johns? Hmmmmm, well that was the discussion we were having while waiting for one of the man dems drink which failed to appear, which leads us on to the service.

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SERVICE: Those of us that were on time were swiftly ushered to our seat, however, the late arrival had a little trouble actually speaking to someone to find out where the Man Dem’s table was situated. Was that because they were busy? Who knows! But we will say the service was of an acceptable standard, despite our waiter coming across like a rabbit caught in headlights, confusion over drinks was the main thing. Also maybe we are just getting old but the volume of the music at times was a little overbearing but by the same token made for a nice vibe and party atmosphere.

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OVERALL: If you are into the trendy scene Pizza East is the spot, it definitely felt like a place to be seen. This is an ideal setting for a group of friends to dine before hitting the local bars, in fact the music whilst eating puts you in the party mood.

However, if you are not trying to keep up with the trendies and just fancy a good ole pizza you can find tastier pizzas elsewhere even takeaway!

3 mandems out of 6

http://www.pizzaeast.com/

Levi’s Smokehouse – The return!

So the #mandemvfood phone pops off and to our surprise we receive a message directly from the @levismokehouse Operations Manager following our last review!! He wants a contact number… Uh-oh!! Seems like he wants to have words… Gulp!! Yes the #mandem were a little prang at first, are we in trouble?? Did we go too far with our review? Was it too harsh? Can we be sued? Lol Nah man we are @mandemvfood we stand firm by our words and we only speak the truth!! A phonecall later and we are invited back as personal guests of the management… Result!! People are taking notice!!

So the day is upon us and with the thought of giving them the chance to redeem themself the #mandem were enthused… Let’s go!

We arrive in the restaurant and are seated within 5 minutes… already an improvement!! We sit down and none other than the main man himself Mr Levi Roots is sitting a few tables away!! We later have the pleasure of him joining us, having a chat, sharing his knowledge and experience and giving us an insight into the concept and model of his “Rasta-raunt” and the way the food is prepared. Definitely one of the highlights of the evening!! Anyway, onto the food!

FOOD:

Starters… Following the abysmal chicken wings from our last visit, we had to order the
12 jerk chicken wings again (to compare to our last visit and to check whether last time was a one off or a constant) they were the same… wings with minimal sauce but with fresher, more succulent chicken. Still no hint of jerk flavour so unsure they should carry that name. Of course, we had to order the Bajan fish 6cakes again – still repping Barbados nicely!! And we also opted for the ackee & salt fish as an extra choice. We had high hopes it would be just how we remember it to be in the bright, warm Caribbean mornings on the veranda overlooking the ocean accompanied with Calaloo and some fried dumplings (bakes / jonny cakes on some islands) …how wrong we were!! Awful, We were so disappointed with the bland, flavourless dish it was almost like we’d been slapped in the face!! We actually had to ADD SALT and a little ketchup to give it more taste. Let us say this again… We had to ADD SALT to SALTFISH!
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Now we’re no expert on how to cook this Jamaican national cuisine, however we’re guessing they left the saltfish to soak way longer than they should have and then heated it up for far too long and dried out the whole thing.

Mains… This time round we wanted to try something different with the mains and with this visit collectively we would have tried most of the menu. Our mains were made up of the shrimps on a stick, the Martinique Coconut Chicken Curry, boneless leg of lamb, reggae reggae jerk chicken and Jamaican curry goat and a combination of rice & peas, plain roti, sweet potato fries and sweet plantain for our sides. Talking of sides, the sweet potato fries were a much better improvement than last time (previously over-cooked, almost burnt!!) and the plantain was exactly how you would want it… Sweet, soft and not too much oil!

13The shrimps on a stick although cooked perfectly fine, we feel needed maybe just a minute longer on the grill (for our palate). The flavour of the shrimp was simply average and we had to use the sauce from the Bajan fishcakes earlier to give it a little boost.

The Martinique Coconut Chicken Curry was a dubious choice because of past visits but we

14thought what the heck… You only live once!! It was well presented and colourful. It put a nice smile on our faces but the smiles were soon mixed with concern and confusion as it did not taste as expected. It lacked flavour and that oomph. It reminded us of those ‘when you try to experiment in your home’ type of flavours or when you make a dish for the first time and think “Next time I’ll put more “??” in… it needed something, but what that ‘something’ is we cannot say. It did not work for us and isn’t a dish we would try again. If this is how they make their curry in Martinique… Respect to them but we’ll stick to the traditional flavours on this one.

10When the jerk chicken arrived the first notable difference was that it was obviously freshly cooked, literally steaming. However, the dish still tasted more like a take on jerk chicken rather than actual jerk chicken. If the dish was listed as Levi Smokehouse chicken with sauce there would be no complaints. MDVF suggest making punters aware that it is smoked chicken, will reduce the number of complaints or install an authentic barrel to cook traditional jerk.

The lamb lived up to its previous review, maintaining its legendary status on the menu!

So…… last but not least one of the mandem opted for the traditional Curry Goat, as “more time when I’m at a family function, or when my Mum or Dad feel for it I’d be chowing down on this” (his words). Now the issue would be, due to us sampling so many ‘expert chefs’ cook this dish how would Mr. Roots’ take on it stack up?

Being the fair and honest bloggers we are, we cannot fault the curry goat. It came with rice and a side of roti. The portion size was nothing to be sniffed at. The cuts of meat were just perfect.

The taste was above average. In other Caribbean take aways, or restaurants the seasoning tends to be watered down, no kick, no pimento, no thyme, minimal black pepper but with this incarnation we were pleasantly surprised. The only thing that was missing was……… The curry powder seasoning! Now, we know many of you are thinking “WAIT, WHAT?” But in all honesty we assume this is Levi Roots’ take on the famous curry goat and not “my mum or dads version” that uses that curry power that gives more colour and definitely that authentic curry taste. Toned down for a commercial market? Maybe, but we can categorically state that you will not be disappointed with this dish!

The desserts were much improved from our last visit with a special mention going to the pineapple & chilli upside down cake… If you get nothing else on the menu, make sure you get this dish!

SERVICE:

We were served by several staff all pleasant and attentive. Our dedicated waitress knew the dishes well and was able to give professional and specific opinion about the items on the menu. Our only gripe is that the macaroni cheese we ordered didn’t arrive until near the end of the meal so we sent it back, but that was down to the kitchen, not the waiting staff.

OVERALL:

If you go to Levi’s Smokehouse expecting to get the tastes and flavours you expect at your everyday Caribbean take away or like what your mum or granny makes at home, forget it!! As Mr. Roots said himself during our chat “ah nuh yuh mudder or yuh granny mek it ah me mek it n is my take pon it!!” (Levi Roots) If you do visit this rasta-raunt bear in mind it is a ‘take’ on Caribbean cuisine rather than the more traditional dishes you are used to.

Following our liason with the Operations Manager and speaking with Levi directly we have a better understanding of how Levi’s Smokehouse is set up and what they are trying to do. It was explained to us that they are trying to bring Levi Roots’ take on the dishes we know and love and spread them to a broader audience. A visit to Levi’s is about the whole experience… from the moment you enter to the moment you leave. They want to cater for all palates, tastes and opinions and a leave visitors with a positive memory of how a Caribbean restaurant can be.

SCORE:

Based on the whole experience of the evening for our second visit we give 4 out of 6 mandems

http://caribbeansmokehouse.com/