Bensoir! It's me, Benjamin. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You may have read stuff I've written elsewhere, but here on my own blog as Ben Viveur I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others, so pretty much anything goes.

BV is about enjoying real food and drink in the real world. I showcase 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. And as a critic 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!

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Will it be COVID that finally kills off cask beer?

With Christmas done and dusted, probably with Arsenic, we're rapidly approaching the death throes of 2020 and at this time of the year, I would usually be thinking 'Golden Pints' and telling you all about my favourite beers.

This time around I shan't bother because I've drunk so little beer this year, what with the pubs having been closed for so much of it and my strong preference being for drinking beer on cask while sitting comfortably in a pub.

But this year, visits to the pub have been - shock, horror! - somewhat thin on the ground (and beer festivals absolutely nonexistent). For what little its worth, my favourite cask pints of the year were Arbor's You may say I'm a dreamer and Mallinson's Shift, but there wasn't a whole lot of competition as there wasn't a whole lot of drinking going on.

I know it's not the same for everyone. I know plenty of people are happy enough drinking cans and bottles at home and given the opportunity to spend more time there, might have actually drunk more than in a typical year.

But that's not me.

And so, I come to the question that's been bothering me for a while now: Is this the end, more or less, of cask beer?!?

Monday, December 14, 2020

The Deacon Centre

OK, so this is, if you like, the BV 2020 Christmas Charity Appeal.

I want you to donate to The Deacon Centre. And if you can't do that, please Like, Follow, Share, Forward and all of that other stuff. LocalGiving for donations. Our Facebook page for general support and sharing.

The Deacon Centre, Caterham
Believe. Achieve.
This has been a shit year, right? Very little socialising, very little eating out, hardly any going to the pub and beer festivals have been non-existent. We've all had a terrible time.

One of the few positive things that actually happened this year is that a new charity, The Deacon Centre has been established, and things have worked out in such a way that I find myself Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Named after Joey Deacon, we'll be running creative spaces for Service Users with Physical, Learning and Communication disabilities and those who support them. Creative writing. Music. Art and Crafts. Drama. Giving people opportunities to express themselves creatively; a chance to really 'live' rather than to merely 'exist'. (We might even offer some food-related sessions at some point!)

We have some great ideas and big plans for when the pandemic is finished, and a determination to make a difference. It's very early days so we need all the support we can get.

So, if you do one thing this Christmas, do it for Joey.


Monday, December 7, 2020

Where is the substance?

On Friday I went to the pub - for the first time since Lockdown II 'ended' - for a few pints and, of course, a substantial meal as is now required by law.

These are profitable times for Britain's Scotch Egg industry. Pasty bakers too, I shouldn't wonder. But possibly not such great days for our wet-led pubs and their customers who have suffered more than most from the fucklery that is COVID-management legislation.

The industry is doing its utmost to cope with a frankly ridiculous situation - we've seen ultra-basic pasta-based meals sold for just 1p with no obligation to consume it. 'Meal replacement' protein drinks on sale, and of course, several seasonal ales named 'substantial meal'. Then there is the ingenious trick of telling everyone when they arrive that 'unfortunately the kitchen is very slow today and it might be a long time before your food arrives.' What a wheeze...

Friday, September 25, 2020

10,000 pints later

On New Years Day 1996, I sat in the William Morris pub in Merton Abbey Mills, drinking a pint of Draught Bass

A callow youth with a few months of teenagehood still remaining on the clock, I had no idea that this was the start of something that would stay with me for the next two and a half decades.

It wasn't - don't be disappointed now, internet - a lifelong love of Bass. But it has been a journey through a further 9999 different beers.

The Bass was quickly followed by Gale's Christmas Ale, back when Gale's was actually a brewery in Hampshire, and the following day I enjoyed a Burtonwood James Forshaw, and a Hopback Summer Lightning


Thursday, August 27, 2020

Burgers in the rain

With the Government 'Eat Out to Help Out' scheme about to come to an end, I wanted to make sure I availed myself of the discount at least once, having been let down in this department by the Real Jerk last week.

So a trip to Bleecker Burger Victoria was very much in order as Bleecker had been marketing themselves on the back of the scheme fairly aggressively on Social Media, and I'd wanted to try their burgers for some time anyway.

So here's a quick-fire review of a pretty decent no-frills burger joint. We haven't done one of them for a while...

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Who's the real jerk?

Compared to many foodie blogsters, I'm not usually all that bothered about 'service' in restaurants.

Most of the time, if the food is good it'll take a lot to make me notice that other departments are lacking and even when I do, I tend to take a pretty relaxed and forgiving view.

So this review of The Real Jerk on Streatham Hill is going to be a bit of a strange one, because stuff other than the food has actually been bad enough for me to notice and indeed care about it!

Monday, August 3, 2020

BV London Pub of the Year 2019-20 - a special award

The past few months have seen the pub and brewing industry hit spectacularly hard. It's almost spitefully trivial to even be thinking about a best pub competition at this time.

But my London Pub of the Year award has been going for quite a few years now, and it feels right to do something this year, for continuity and because no virus can stop me recognising a fucking good pub when I see one!

Can you tell where it is yet?
The award 'year' runs from July to June, which means that most of the serious decision-making inevitably takes place during the months of March, April, May and June... when of course everything was locked down tighter than a locksmiths chastity belt.

Therefore a full and fair contest just wouldn't be possible. However, a few weeks ago I came to a couple of decisions.

  1. Assuming everything gets back to normal, the competition will make a full return for the year 20-21, and will include the five finalists from last year, plus a further five pubs. It will be open to all e.g. the five long-listed non-finalists from last year will not be excluded.
  2. A 'special award' will be given out for 2019-2020, to a pub that went the extra mile during lockdown.

And that special award goes to...