ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!
ʼʼ

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Why nostalgia ain't what it used to be

We all know that things aren't as good as they used to be. Wagon Wheels have been getting smaller for years and must now be viewed under a microscope. Coca-cola doesn't taste as good as it did when we were hyperactive toddlers. And British Saturday night television was the finest on earth in the days when we still had 'good old-fashioned variety'.

We also 'all know' that this is mostly bollocks. As humans we view the past through nostalgic spectacles so heavily tinted with rose petals that we can't see the newly planted trees for the pile of aged wood. We have a keen sense of nuance and self-awareness, enough to understand things on the second level. We only think that stuff used to be bigger and better.

Or do we?

What if there is a third level of thinking to analyse? What if the revealed truth is that food, drink, entertainment and everything else really can get away with dumbing itself down, because people who are going to complain about it not being as good as it used to be will complain that it's not as good to be whatever happens, and everyone else will think that it probably is just as good as it used to be and we only think it isn't because of all that rose-tinted nostalgia stuff that blinds us. Except that it isn't actually blinding us and stuff really isn't as good as it used to be?

Does this make sense?

Monday, September 4, 2017

BV London Pub of the Year 2016-17 - the results

It's that time again. A little later than usual, but then it was a particularly difficult decision this year.

We've reviewed last year's top five and five spanking new entries, and it's all change. (Quite literally as last year's No. 3, the Clapham Craft Beer Co has now ceased to be!)

Pints have been quaffed, menus sampled, atmospheres taken in, and all for that noblest of causes -  picking out the best damn pub in all of London.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Has the GBBF lost its G?

Right, that's another Great British Beer Festival over for another year.

And, to be honest, at the end of the week, I've come away feeling a tad, well, underwhelmed. Meh.

Normally, I'd put that down to mid-life-crisisism, post binge-drinking comedown and my generally bleak outlook on life. But a few conversations with other attendees seem to confirm a pretty widespread view that this really was the most lacklustre GBBF for some time.

I don't yet know how it worked out from CAMRA's perspective, but here are few collated thoughts - not just mine but those of my friends, drinking buddies, random strangers and - of course - teh interwebz: 


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Why does everything have to have a 'quarter' these days?

Whatever claim BoxPark Croydon stakes to being South London's premier nightlife hub, it was always going to have a little local competition in the form of the stuff that was there already.

Croydon may still be short of a genuinely world-class pub, but it doesn't lack restuarants. Indeed the stretch of road south of Croydon Flyover has a concentration of eateries of just about every nationality and the area is now branded officially as the 'Restaurant Quarter'.

Honestly there are so many here, I do wonder if the area can sustain that much food. Especially overpriced, indifferent dining experiences of dubious quality.

Beer Circus used to be round these parts too, a small continental style bar that was one of the first in London to offer genuinely interesting imported beers on draught. It's long gone though, so you'll have to make do with the two Wetherspoons that top and tail the Restaurant Quarter (and the Milan Bar, at the Northern end of the stretch, is up for sale and won't be there much longer.)

Whenever places boast a 'French Quarter', or indeed a Restaurant Quarter, I'm always slightly bemused by the expression. What if it takes up more than 25% of the available space? What if you have French, Italian, Baroque, Chinese and Bohemian Quarters, shouldn't they technically be Quinters or something?

It annoys me.

Anyway, not particularly good restaurants in Croydon. Let's go!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

BV London Pub of the Year 2016-17 - part two

Here we go with the second part of this year's Pub of the Year contest. And in many ways, it's far more exciting than the first because it's the turn of the new contenders. In Top of the Pops parlance we have one New Entry and four Re-Entries this year.

So let's get right onto it, Pop-Pickers...

Monday, July 17, 2017

BV London Pub of the Year 2016-17 - part one

It's that time of the year again: The excitement! The suspense! The engraving of a trophy with the name of the same pub that won last year, probably!

Yep, we're back for the 2016-17 London Pub of the Year contest. And this time it's a bit strange because this is the first contest since I moved out of London.

I've not gone far away and still drink regularly enough in the capital, but before we get started, I really ought to mention my new local, the Radius Arms micropub in Whyteleafe.

It's not in Greater London so it's not eligible for the contest, but if it were, it'd have a serious shout of winning. Landlord Vince keeps a constantly-changing range of both cask and keykeg beers from Premier League breweries and an unrivaled cider selection.

What the Radius understands - and what so many pubs consistently fail to get - is that to be a serious drinking pub you need to offer variety, and variety isn't just about the names on the pumpclips, it's about offering real choice: light and dark; sessionable and strong; supermalt and hyper-hopped and everything in between.

So, whichever pub wins this years contest, I'll probably be drinking there less than I will at the Radius. Sorry, guys!

That said, there are of course several seriously stunning places to drink across all corners of the capital, so let's get cracking:


Friday, July 14, 2017

Lost Breweries: G is for Gibbs Mew

It's hard to believe, given the relative ease with which we can enjoy 8-10%+ DIPAs and Imperial Stouts these days, but there was a time, specifically the time when I started drinking, when almost all beer was in the 3.7-4.6% ABV range.

4.8% beers were, without a trace of irony, branded as 'Strong Ale' and if a beer was a whole 5 per cent, well, you'd genuinely have people shaking their heads, making a 'fwhooosh' noise, and saying things like 'Better not have too many of those!', 'Watch out for brain damage!', and 'Rather you than me, you criminally insane spazzbucket of derangement!'

No, really. They said things like this about 5% ABV beers in the early 1990s. Yeah, technically we had the 9% 'super strength' lager in cans, apparently consumed only by vagrants, and there were a few bottled exceptions like Whitbread Gold Label Barley wine and Thomas Hardy's Ale, but in a pub you'd struggle to find strong beers on draught, and if you inquired as to their existence, you'd be viewed with deep suspicion. You want a strong ale, have this one. 4.7%. Go easy on it there, boy.