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

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

BV London Pub of the Year 2017-18 - the results

When I was a child, records used to rise up the hit parade over several weeks - if you topped the charts it was often the result of a lengthy climb. A song going 'straight in at No. 1' was almost unheard of.

During my teens, the music industry gradually changed, and with better marketing and more aggressive promotion in the first week of sale, it was an increasingly common occurrence. Eventually it became the norm for all No. 1 records to go straight in. A song actually climbing up the charts became the rarity.

This isn't some nostalgic music blog though, it's the much-anticipated Pub of the Year winner announcement. Last years top five vs five new- and re-entries. We've crunched the numbers and reached a final decision.

Mind you, talking of going straight in at No. 1...

Thursday, August 16, 2018

GBBF is officially Great again

This time last year, I begged the question: Has the GBBF lost its G?

CAMRA's flagship beer festival was, I felt, in the doldrums. A victim of both its own success and the younger, more exciting competition. Many agreed with me. Long-time GBBF volunteer Tandleman asked 'How was GBBF for you?', stimulating further debate.

(I like debate. Though possibly not as much as I like good beer.)

Well, we've had another one since then. So how was the Great British Beer Festival 2018?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

We need to talk about beer temperature

As you probably know from my myriad PotY assessments over the years, or indeed if you've ever been on the same table as me on a tasting panel, I have pretty strong opinions when it comes to beer temperature. Opinions that perhaps get stronger on a boiling hot day.

Specifically, I think that certain beers are best served at certain temperatures - and whether they come from a cask or a keg or a hog's bladder should be far less of a factor than the style of the beer itself. Is that really so unreasonable?


In the past week, I've attended two beer festivals, both in South London. One at my 2016-17 Pub of the Year, the Hope, and the other at Beckenham Rugby Club, the home of Bromley CAMRA's annual festival - both boasting lengthy lists of pale, hoppy beers. Last week, of course, was pretty fucking hot. The hottest day of the hottest year since records began, or something. I believe on Friday, the second circle of Hell was actually a couple of degrees cooler than Beckenham.

Anyway, the beer...

Monday, July 23, 2018

BV London Pub of the Year 2017-18 - part two

So, this is it. Five new Pub of the Year contenders. If you haven't read the first part, it's probably better to check that out first, otherwise you'll have to wear your trousers backwards and go to bed in the morning.

If you're already up to date, then let's go...


Thursday, July 19, 2018

BV London Pub of the Year 2017-18 - part one

Yes, it's that time of year once again. The lazy Summer days of trying to decide which pub has been the best in London over the past 12 months.

Almost unbelievably, this is the seventh year of the competition, and three different pubs have won the accolade - but who will it be this time? Which prestigious pub will attain the additional prestige of having their prestigious name on the most prestigious trophy - the trophy of prestige?

As usual we'll start by returning to last year's top five, and then, in part two, we'll look at five 'New Entries' that weren't in the contest last time. After that's it's as simple as picking out a worthy winner - and by 'simple' I mean 'actually rather painstakingly difficult', obviously...

So, here we go! Prestige!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Final Meal 2018 - L'Escargot Risotto Noir

It's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming; Football's coming home...

Well, it was until Wednesday evening anyway. But England can take heart from the fact that this time nobody expected them to do a whole lot, and a valiant semi-final exit is a decent achievement. (Indeed their pair of losses to Belgium in the Group stage and 3rd place play-off suggest that, perhaps 'overachievement' might be a better word!)


Black risotto with snails

What it does mean is that this years 'Final Meal' now has to be a fusion of French and Croatian dishes, which is a shame because after Trippier's free kick I was planning for a Bouillabaisse Pie with Roquefort mash. Surely a future classic, no?

But we'll make the best of the situation with a bit of cuttlefish ink and a few snails and, who knows, it might even be vaguely edible.

(If you haven't been keeping up with the tradition, the 2014 World Cup saw the creation of Black Forest Churrasco, while Euro 2016 - Portugal vs France, of course - lent itself to the Peri Peri Croque Monsieur. This lark began back in the 2012 Euro finals when Spain took on Italy and I gave you Gnocchi Bravas.)

So, here we go then.  2018's 'Final Meal'...

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Can't cook; won't cook; can barely raise a glass

Firstly, relatively sincere apologies for the radio silence on the old blogging front recently. And to those expecting to see me out and about in various places and didn't - yes, unfortunately I've been pretty quiet lately.

There is a reason, mind.

For the past six months or so I've been suffering increasingly from a frozen shoulder, complicated with hyper-mobility. I realise that sounds like a piss-poor excuse for inactivity and reclusiveness and being on a bit of a downer.

Until recently I too would have summarily dismissed 'frozen shoulder' as a minor condition, probably unworthy of complaint. But, the truth is, it's extremely life-limiting and bloody painful.


I'm having treatment - physio, acupuncture, painkillers, whatever might alleviate the bloody thing - and I'll try to blog more and be a bit more sociable, but I might be in for another year or two of this crap before it really gets better.

The pain isn't just confined to the shoulder - it radiates down the arm to the elbow, wrist and fingers. Simple food-prep tasks, like getting something down from a shelf, taking a casserole out of the oven or sprinkling herbs have become difficult or even impossible, as the muscles in my arm start to atrophy from lack of use. Even lifting a pint glass to my mouth is a challenge!

Of course, it had to be in my right arm, didn't it? The more important, dominant one. You don't appreciate the full range of movement of your rotator cuff until it's taken away. I've forgotten what it's like to wave my hand in the air, or put it behind my back or use a mouse for an extended period of time. Conveying three pints from bar to table in one movement? A mere dream now.

There's a psychological element too; a couple of months ago a sort of dull, depressed sense of fatigue really set in, after not being able to find a position to sleep in properly. And I have a constant feeling of uncertain restlessness and not knowing what to do - a feeling I usually only get immediately after somebody dies.

OK, that's enough whinging about my suffering. I just wanted to explain my general absence and indeed, why my mood probably hasn't been top-drawer when I have been around.

I'll keep going with my prescribed exercises and try to be back to my creative peak soon, OK?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Mostly on the side of the dinosaurs

It's sometimes easy to over-obsess about things, so this will be my last word on the seemingly unending CAMRA Revitalisation plans - at least until after next month's AGM when the train will either be diverted on to the fast lines or stopped in its tracks.

I've already cast my votes online and, after much consideration, I have mostly voted against the proposals for change. Which may surprise some people.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Transitional Lamb

If you were planning to check some news site or other after reading this post, I'll save you the trouble.

Snow.

Snow. Snow. Snow. 

Lots of snow. It's cold out there, the schools are closed, the footies off and some opticians are trapped on the M75 for 137 hours in an Austin Princess with no heating, blankets or wine. That sort of thing. And there's absoluely fuck-all else going on in the news. Trust me on this one.
 
I think we're on an 'Amber' weather warning right now - Red basically means that you and everyone you ever cared about are already dead, while the Yellow warning just means you have to watch out for uriney snow. so Amber is probably about right.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Where were you when the Colonel died?

February the 19th, 2018 will forever go down in history as 'the day KFC ran out of chicken'.

Years from now, folks will idly ask 'do you remember that day when KFC ran out of chicken?' and their friend Martha will reply 'Yes, Gerald, it was February the 19th, 2018'. And then they'll reminisce about how the Double Down really wasn't all that, and argue about exactly which 11 herbs and spices made up the Colonel's original recipe.

The Kennedy assassination it may not be, but it's the kind of story that almost defies belief. Chicken isn't just their core product, it's pretty much their only product - and that's why more than half their 900-odd outlets are closed today. How can such a large chain - presumably with robust operations and logistics processes in place - allow something like to ever come close to happening?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

CAMRA Revitalisation - much ado about nothing?

Last week, CAMRA finally revealed a set of recommendations resulting from their 'Revitalisation' consultation.

I say 'finally', not because there is even a remote sense of finality about this, but because this process has dragged on for absolutely fucking ages, as if swimming against a tide of treacle. I attended one of the very first consultation meetings (in April 2016, which really does seem a hell of a long time ago now) and once the series had concluded, I was invited as a beer writer to a sort of beer media briefing which went into more detail about what they'd learned.

That was about a year ago. They've had a long time to get their shit together following the consultation process, but finally the cat is out of the bag.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Golden Pints: BV's best beers of 2017

Well done you - you made it through another year!

And so, it seems did I, staggering on, from one pint to the next like some sort of thirsty animal. But with better taste in beer, presumably.

As beer-years go, 2017 was a pretty good one (there's scope for a Tori Amos cover there) and the standard of brewing in this country remains at an all time high.