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

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Trying to stop my heart breaking - a Valentine's tale

Having largely avoided going to the doctors for many years, events all seem to have caught up with me in recent weeks, and the conclusions drawn from a spate of visits to various clinical facilities for myriad assessments and blood tests has concluded that I suffer from high blood pressure and Type II diabetes. (In addition to the various gouty, asthmatic, arrythmic ailments that befouled me.)

Great.

Diabetes and high blood pressure are strange beasts, in that you don't necessarily 'suffer' from them (I have no discernable symptoms) but having them can make it a whole lot more likely one will suffer from things that are properly hurty - blindness, stroke, heart attack, heart failure etc.

(You'll have realised by now that this seasonal blogpipe has relatively little to do with love, but then St Valentine himself suffered from cardio-vascular problems and excess glucose, so it's topical. OK, maybe he didn't. I'm ill. Indulge me.)






I came back from the chemist yesterday with a big bag containing ACE Inhibitors (for my blood pressure), Metformin (for my blood sugar) and a complicated kit to self-monitor the latter. This involves shooting little needles into my fingertips and squeezing blood onto some strange electronic device, which in turn displays a number which effectively translates into 'still way too high' - in much the same way that bathroom scales work.

It struck me that there are some people who would instinctively ask ‘why take medication when I can just control it with diet and exercise?’, and equally others who would ask ‘why control it with diet and exercise when I can just take medication?’

I’m kinda in between the two stools in that food and drink is one of the most important things in my life and not one I want to compromise, but I also happen to be hugely sceptical of the medical establishment, particularly the pharmaceutical industry, so any ‘value-added’ placebo effect is likely to be minimal with me, even if the drugs themselves do actually contradict The Verve and work.

The doctors and nurses, naturally, in their paternalistic wisdom, forcibly recommend a combination of the two.

So, I now find myself in a situation where, for the first time in my life, I’m on medications which I might very well have to take for the rest of my natural days AND I’m going to have to look at making my lifestyle at least a little healthier – not that it was all that unhealthy before, in the big scheme of things. It's not like I have a Wetherspoons Large Mixed Grill – apparently the least healthy meal in thecountry - three times a day, but I have had one on a few occasions.

I’ve decided that I’m not going to be a food fascist to the point of misery, but I will endeavour to take advantage of the healthier choices available. I will have to stop doing stuff like the JDW LMG, obviously, not that it will be a huge loss.


The right choice

Anyway, in a more optimistic vein (as opposed to one they've been sticking needles in!) I ventured to Brew Wharf at lunchtime today, and took advantage of their rather good value offer - £8.50 for a lunchtime sandwich meal including a pint of their ale (usually £4/pint).

I've blogged about BW in the past because I do like the place an awful lot, for both food and beer. It's the closest thing in London to an American brewpub - the decor is all open space with exposed air conditioning and big screens in the air - and while there are only two real beers on at any time, they change every few weeks and are always both interesting and of high quality.

I went specifically to try the Single Hop - Dana (5.5%) before it ran out, and it was worth it. It's a big, full, hoppy Pale Ale that to my mind makes a mockery of the idea that a 'session ale' has to be weak in order to be drinkable in big quantities. 

A shame that's the only pint of it I shall ever have as it's about disappear, probably forever. Still, stronger beers are higher in calories so I need to watch the fuck out...

Not exactly health food, but not Chocolate Lard Pie either
The other beer on right now is Heirloom AK, based on a 1930s recipe for a light mild. It's not as bold or hoppy as the Dana, but it's punchy for a mild, a decent 4.2%, and an example of a style of beer that even in this day and age of radical brewing experiments is rarely seen.

The £8.50 menu (only available between midday and 3 PM when things are surprisingly quiet for a food-led pub in the heart of London) includes things like a cheeseburger and a croque monsieur, but I went for the grilled chicken breast with salad on homemade granary bread. Probably had the least calories, fat and salt.

It's simple stuff, maybe a tad bland, but well executed, and comes on semi-toasted bread with just enough of a smidgeon of mayo, though you could add more yourself if you wanted too. The plate includes skinny fries (which I tried, and failed to resist) and a bit of extra salad, which all adds up to a good value lunch when the beer is thrown in.

It could have done with the addition of bacon, but then that would have made it less healthy and these are the kinds of sacrifices I'm going to have to make from now on for the sake of my internal organs.

Knowing Brew Wharf, it will probably all change next week, but the quality will always be there.

The normal menu is far more expensive, with starters in the £5-7 bracket, and mains costing £10-20, but they've had some cracking dishes over the years, the best of which was perhaps a chorizo and squid ink risotto a few years back which I still think about fondly from time to time.

Beers in recent months have included many variations on the American-style IPA, Amber ale, Oatmeal stout and a festive chocolate milk number. I took a sneak peak at the casks lined up out back on my way to the facilities and saw that 'Nate & Nic's IPA' is coming soon.

Also noted was the fact that the Dyson Airblade dryers had disappeared and been replaced by regular hand dryers - strange as Brew Wharf was the first place I ever saw the Airblade, years before they took off across the capital. I'm sure the technology was all very advanced, but I can never figure out where I'm supposed to put my cock...

I do feel slightly guilty about polishing off the pommes frites plus a pair of lunchtime pints, especially as I'm cooking my wife a hearty Valentines dinner tonight, but I'll only give myself a small portion, take the Ramipril, and remind myself that the grilled chicken was the healthiest option and it still tasted nice.

Onwards and upwards, my friends, onwards and upwards. 

Not unlike my blood pressure...


Where to find it...
Vinopolis,
Stoney Street,
SE1 9AD
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