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!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Thirsty Work

Banging on about it makes me sound like a grumpy old man, but the truth is that ever since I was a small child, I've generally disliked crowds.

As I've mentioned in the past, give me somewhere half-empty with plenty of space to move about any time, over heaving masses of sweaty bodies any day.

Honestly, I could be watching Cov City winning the Champions League Final amongst a crowd of 95,000, and still not really get this idea of 'atmosphere' that others seem to relish. Unlikely as this prospect is, I reckon I'd still be getting all annoyed at the restrictions on my personal space when I should be celebrating...

Anyway, I'll stop ranting.

It would have been great to spend the Jubilee long weekend hiding away from anything crowdy - staying indoors, cooking, eating, drinking... but unfortunately that wasn't possible.

I was singing in the East meets West concert at the Royal Albert Hall last night, with two solid days of rehearsals beforehand, which meant I had to brave several journeys through a central London chock-full of flag-waving mobs. Which I didn't enjoy very much. 

OK, so I didn't stop ranting. My bad.


Queen and Cunty

Don't get me wrong, I'm 100% in favour of a constitutional monarchy, I like living in a country that has one and I always stand for our National Anthem

I suppose I'm a Monarchist, but not a Royalist, if that makes sense. I just don't see why people who would otherwise be sat at home feel the need to take to the streets, getting in my way, forcing me to queue for longer in pubs, and making me stand all the way on the train...
Where am I?
I know, I know. I'm the ultimate Jubilee killjoy. On a par with Prince Philip's bladder infection probably.

The crowds and 'atmosphere' didn't stop there, either. With Andrea Bocelli, Song Zuying and Lang Lang on the bill, and backed by the Royal Philharmonic, it was just about the 'biggest' concert I've ever done, though as a lowly member of the 150-strong chorus, I was an extremely small cog in a vast, International music machine.

I have to admit, I'm used to being a slightly bigger fish. A cod, at least, or perhaps a river gar.

But it was an exciting experience, and an honour to be invited to sing. And at least thousands of people in the Albert Hall and potentially millions watching on Chinese television got to have their weekend brightened up by the sight of my beaming face.

Ah, there I am!
 Over the last three days I've spent 20 hours being conducted by 'a shouty Chinaman' (his own description!) and singing mostly in Mandarin. And as any singer will know, singing makes you thirsty. Very thirsty. And the first port of call after a strenuous rehearsal should always be the pub.

Unfortunately the pubs have been filled to bursting with the Jubilant flag-wavers at times when when they'd otherwise be half-empty, just the way I like 'em.

No free tables. Long queues. Stupid twats not knowing what (usually soft) drink to order and asking stupid questions of the beleagured bar staff. It was like onslaught of fairweather pubcunts that you see in the weeks immediately before Christmas. It's hypocritical, and it stinks.

I actually saw somebody pay for a single half of lager in the Lord Moon of the Mall using a card! Fuck that.

There should be preferential treatment for those of us who support the British pub industry all year round. We're the real patriots!

Right, I'll stop ranting. For real this time. Seriously. I'm going to talk about beer. (OK, maybe there'll be a little ranting.)


Jubilee Ales

One genuine upside of the celebrations (as well as an extra Bank Holiday) is that many breweries have brought out one-off ales, and it's been absolutely necessary for me to sample as many as possible...

Adnams Diamond - 4.1%, quite bland and sweet. Basically a malty bitter with a little added honey. Not my sort of thing and I've not wanted to have it again. 4/9. 

By The Horns Prince Albert - 5.5%, spicy dark lager. Interesting mix of fruit and spice, but not what I'd choose to drink regularly! 5/9.  

Greene King Celebration - 4.2%, pale and bland but pleasantly refreshing. An unmemorable 'average' pint. 6/9.  

Leeds Jubilee IPA - 4.8%, pale and subdued. I was expecting something more. Another rather bland bitter, and I know this brewery can do a lot better. 5/9.

Marston's Pedigree Diamond - 5.0%, pale-ish and refreshing. Hoppier than I expected, and without the trademark 'Ped' sulphur. 6/9.

Maxim Queen of Diamonds - 4.2%, pale but malty. Again, very few hops.  Apparently an ale-lager hybrid. Eminently unmemorable. 4/9.

Thwaite's Fine Reign - 4.1%, amber and citrussy. Again, not exactly bursting with flavours. Very light hop profile. 5/9. 

Westerham Jubilation Ale - 4.0%, pale and fairly hoppy. A decent summer ale. Uses nine different hops representing different eras of Her Majesty's reign,  apparently! Probably the pick of the bunch. 6/9. 

So, in conclusion, queuing up behind the hordes might not even have been worth it. God, what is it with this Jubilee and bland, tastless pale ales?!?

Not a single one of these brewers really attempted to make a 1952-style beer, and I feel they've missed a trick here.

Availability of most of these beers has been fairly wide (eg Wetherspoons, Antic and Nicholsons pubs and a whole load of other places). They will probably continue to be available over the next couple of weeks at least.

Not that this is something you should be unduly bothered about... 


  1. Hi, good review. So are all these beers new? The GK Celebration Pale Ale was certainly available at JDW in early 2011. Any others?
    Cheers.... Andrew

  2. Have you tried Diamond Liz from the Mighty Oak brewery?? Another light beer but quite a lot of flavour.

  3. Andrew, I believe all the beers were new to me (but will double-check my records just to make sure) - I guess some of them could be rebadges, they were certainly unmemorable enough to get away with rebadging!

    I might've missed out on the GK beer last time out, but that's no great loss!

    A few days after writing this I had the Diamond Liz in the Craft Beer company and it was more enjoyable than any of those I reviewed.


Comments are always welcomed and encouraged, especially interesting, thought-provoking contributions and outrageous suggestions.