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, October 15, 2019

Wetherspoons: A life just beginning?

JD Wetherspoon is turning 40.

In pub industry years, where change now tends to happen at breakneck pace, that makes it something of an elder statesman. In 'real' time, the chain is only a couple of years younger than I am, and consequently Spoons has been around for my entire life; a constant presence since I started drinking, albeit one that has changed substantially over time. Not necessarily for the better.

Marked by their latest beerfest featuring 40 beers - most of them new and/or exclusive - this birthday is a milestone occasion for a staple of the British High Street that is as controversial as it is popular.

Having visited over 600 of their pubs (exactly 612 at the last count), I consider myself one of the chains biggest fans, but also one of its more vocal critics. There is a lot that Tim Martin has done right, and few would argue that, on balance, Wetherspoons haven't been an overall force for good. but there are a number of worrying issues and a hell of a lot of ways in which things could improve.

Monday, September 2, 2019

BV London Pub of the Year 2018-19 - the results

Everybody enjoys a really close contest - there's nothing better than a thrilling nailbiter that goes right down to the wire. So much more enjoyable than watching a procession where the end result was never in doubt. No prizes for being in front, only for winning as they say.

(I've got loads more cliches left in the locker from my days as a BBC Sports writer, but that'll probably do.)

Anyway, this year's Pub of the Year competition has turned out to be pretty exciting. With five - count 'em, five! - pubs all level on points going into the final reckoning. Nothing like this has ever happened before and the margins involved in picking the winner will be finer than a fine old ale (see what happens when you stop using sporting cliches, you end up with beery analogies that are weaker than a table saison...)

Saturday, August 3, 2019

How times change...

Having reached my 40s, and considering myself really quite open-minded about food and drink, Ive been thinking about how little my tastes have changed in adulthood, yet how drastically they were altered in the space of a few years - probably from 14-17 or so.

Happily, there seem to be far more things that I've 'grown into' than those with which I've fallen out of love.



Stuff I liked as a child but now pretty much detest Stuff I hated as a child and still don't really like Stuff I thought I didn't like as a child but now rather enjoy
  • Milk
  • McDonalds
  • Cadbury's Chocolate
  • Margarine
  • Cake Icing (the traditional hard, white kind)
  • The adhesive you lick on the back of stamps.

  • Peas
  • Tuna
  • Quorn (and its laboratorial ilk)
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Broad Beans
  • Liquorice
  • Marzipan - even when I liked the icing that goes with it.
  • Mushrooms
  • Haggis
  • Venison
  • Broccoli 
  • Black Pudding
  • Anchovies
  • Carrots
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Butter Beans 
  • Smoking
  • While we're on the subject, Frankfurters and other smoked sausages
  • Tofu
  • Blue Cheese
  • Pâtés and Terrines
  • Poached Eggs
  • Game Birds
  • Veal
  • Grapefruit
  • Yoghurt

Monday, July 15, 2019

BV London Pub of the Year 2018-19 - part two

Welcome back - it's time to crack on with the 2018-19 Pub of the Year contest, and here we have our five new contenders for this year. Four completely new ones and one re-entry hoping to make a triumphant return. Let's see how they stack up against last year's Final Five.


Monday, July 8, 2019

BV London Pub of the Year 2018-19 - part one


It's time, yet again, for the Ben Viveur London Pub of the Year awards to commence. Woohoo!

Now, don't get upset, but I'm going to have to make a decision as to whether this should be the last year of the competition, or keep it going.

This is the eighth year of the competition and it's always a pleasure. but the truth is that since I moved out of Greater London I've spent a lot less time drinking in eligible pubs. In all honesty, my pub surveying process has therefore become a bit rubbish. It's certainly not as thorough as it could be, and in all likelihood there are numerous very good pubs that aren't getting a fair crack of the whip simply because I haven't been to them.

But that's for me to think about over the next 12 months. There will be a 2018-19 award, and it starts right here, right now.

You know the drill - first I revisit last year's Top Five pubs, then in part two I check out some new contenders and re-entries. We think about it for a bit, talk it over with some fellow beer writers, and then, some time in August, this year's winner is crowned.

Let's get right to it then.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Nothing to see here?

It's perhaps appropriate that during the visit of Sir Donald Trump to our fine native Covfefe, the Morning Advertiser has served up its latest misleading slice of fake news.

CAMRA yields to allow craft keg beer at GBBF reads the headline, announcing that, for the first time, the flagship beer festival of the Campaign will be serving beer that isn't cask.

Except that it's not news. It's clickbait. As I reported at the time, domestic keg was served two years ago. And again last year. And foreign keg beers have been a part of the action for about the last 30 years.

The main difference this time might be, if I'm reading it correctly, a dedicated keg bar, which social media is predictably hailing as long overdue and 'not before time'.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Lost Breweries: I is for Ind Coope

The lists of quarterly Guest Ales in Wetherspoons don't tend to be particularly interesting these days.

In a world where most of us know where to go for limited-release barrel-aged sour or a Bretted Imperial IPA, it might be comforting to know that there's a Spoons somewhere (or rather, there are Spoons everywhere) serving Kelham Island Pale Rider this month, but it really isn't news.

That said, there is something that caught my eye in the April-June, for which I shall keep an eye out. Burton Bridge brewery's Draught Burton Ale at 4.8%.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Dear Mr. Vernon...

It's been a while since my intrepid search to find the best breakfast around turned up any new savoury evidence. Well, let's be brutally honest, it's been a while since I blogged about absolutely fucking anything, isn't it?

So, let's do a quick Brekkie review. Specifically The Breakfast Club, where I breakfasted last week. On my birthday. 42, since you asked. Getting old.

Anyway, 'The Club' has several locations across the capital, from Battersea to Hoxton as well as Oxford and Brighton, all of which should give you a general idea of where they are coming from and what sort of market they are after. (Possibly not 42 year olds, even if it is their birthday.)

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Cask 2019: Why it rocked; Why it sucked

I had some fantastic beers at the weekend.

To be more specific, I had some fantastic beers between 6 and 11 PM on Saturday at Testbed1 under railway arches in Bermondsey. Beers that, for the most part, will never be seen again anywhere, at any other time. And, fairly obviously, that is part of the problem.

I absolutely loved the Cask 2019 beer festival, if indeed one can call a one-day event, divided into two sessions a 'festival'. I appreciated the beers immensely, and several of them will go down as some of my favourites of 2019. But we have a problem here. And in attempting to outline some of the underlying issues facing the beer industry in 2019, the organisers have only served to create further problems. In a sense.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

When Porky met Curry

What's the best option when eating out? Indian, right?

What's the best roasted meat? Pork, right?

Why can't you get curried pork in Indian restaurants? That would be the most amazing thing ever, right?

It is, however, even in this age of every-conceivable-fusion, still remarkably rare. Never the twain shall met. Which is a bit odd. I know there is a cultural and religious explanation, but it's a lazy one, and under scrutiny it doesn't  really make a whole lot of sense.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Golden Pints: BV's best beers of 2018

So, another year over and we're all a bit closer to the merciful release of death...

2018 was a moderately eventful period for beer. Brewdog and Cloudwater grabbed the headlines by returning to cask production; Brut IPA became the next big thing; sales of real ale slumped somewhat alarmingly and the CAMRA Revitalization Project, two years in the making, turned out to be something of a non-event.

Meanwhile ordinary people like me continued to drink beer every day and obsessively keep a record of it.

I managed pints of 623 new cask beers in 2018, bringing my overall total to just short of 9100 and every tickers' big target is now neatly in sight if I can up my game a little in 2019.