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!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Utter Crepe! (Well, actually quite good....)

The glut of visitors descending upon The Wharf this week for the Motor Expo has driven an already crowded area to the point of combustion. Possibly literally.
Motor Expo

It’s not just all the extra people, but the vehicles parked incongruously on every thoroughfare taking up space where people would normally be free to roam. Just not right, it isn't.

And I'm probably being as thick as a 4x4, or, worse, somebody who drives one, but I still haven’t figured out the fuck did they get all those Morgans and Lotuses and whathaveyou into the reception area of the tower. Do they remove all the people-doors and drive them in from the street one by one? Do they assemble the cars inside the building?

I’m not against motor shows – I actually find them quite interesting – but as with football and beer festivals, I find being in a large crowd a bloody nuisance rather than some kind of life-affirming sense of solidarity and togetherness. (And, yes, I still experience crowds at football, despite supporting a very unsuccessful and unpopular team).

Anyway, with thousands of Fiesta drivers excitedly taking lots of pictures of supercars they’ll never be able to afford (as well as the resident BMW 3-Series suitcunts who could buy something more interesting but won’t), the places where I usually pick up my lunch have all been doing very good business. 

A bit too good really, as most of the nice food invariably gets scoffed by hungry motor enthusiasts by the time I’m ready to eat. I was even reduced to making a second-ever visit to Organic chickpeas the other day.

But being a great man, I was able to turn this setback into an opportunity, and try something new - in this case, the tiny Creperie next door, which I'd barely even noticed until now.

Flat as a...

Following my hummus and falafel (it might've been my imagination but it seemed slightly nicer this time, and a bigger portion to boot!), and a wistful look at the Saab 9-3 convertible, I felt like a proper dessert, and a sweet crepe would fit the bill rather nicely.

There are myriad options available and you wait while the guy freshly cooks the ultra-thin and crispy crepe for you and folds in your chosen fillings. I went for chocolate, hazelnuts and cream, which combine to make a delicious gooey mess that oozes from every crevice. Watching him cook it is entertaining in itself.

You might not be able to handle it every day, but it was definitely yummy in a messy, naughty sort of way, and I was naturally keen to return a couple of days later to try one of their savoury fillings.

And this wasn't bad either, though for me crepes are at their best when served as a dessert. This seems to be their view too, as the range of savoury pancakes is limited to just three choices.

Le Parisian
I went for the Parisian - gloopy mushrooms, cheese and lots of garlic - and while it wasn't going to win any awards it tasted considerably nicer than it's rather uninspiring appearance suggested with salty, buttery goodness seeping endlessly onto ones fingers.

Other options involve spinach or ham, which would have added more colour, but it's clear that the real stars are those involving chocolate and cream.

The crepes range from around £3 to around £4, which is entirely reasonable and eating one savoury and one sweet would be a pretty filling two-course meal.

It's not fast food - they can only cook two crepes at any one time, and if there's a queue you'll be waiting a while (though for some reason, the Motor Show visitors didn't seem to be much into crepes so I didn't have to). 

It's another tool in your Canary Wharf lunchbox and something a little different - if nothing else you can enjoy the understated, personal theatre of the preparation. Unlike the garishly-painted Hummer parked in the plaza blocking my way, it's both affordable and edible, which sounds like the better deal to me.

On The Wharf...

Reuters Plaza,
Canary Wharf

E14 5AJ

The Motor Expo runs until Sunday June 12


  1. Coincidentally, I had a crepe this week, but it wasn't at all what I was expecting. It was basically a rectangular crepey parcel, containing the ham and cheese and mushroom and onion I'd ordered. I was, however, sitting in the cafe so my crepe half-filled a plate with a salad and a knife and fork (the knife and fork weren't really on the plate, I held them). I don't feel a great desire to try one again, maybe if I'd seen it being cooked as that sounds entertaining, but the kitchen is behind a closed door.


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