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!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Do they have Vanuatuan takeaways in El Salvador?

I remarked the other day that it was almost impossible to find food that identified as 'United Arab Emiratean' in Dubai. (Which is in the United Arab Emirates if you needed reminding!)

This got me thinking.

Think, think, think went my brain, like some sort of vast, organic thinking machine.

And I came to the conclusion that this criticism is possibly a bit harsh, if only because the UAE is far from alone in having a dismally flaccid presence in the World League of Food.

Want to know what I'm banging on about? Hold tight for some Gastro-geopolitical discourse.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Broken Eastern Promise

A few weeks ago I went along to Craft Beer Rising, not expecting there to be anything much for me, and came away rather pleasantly surprised.

It didn't take long, however, to find the place where there was nothing for me, and that place is Dubai.

So, what's my beef with this fantastic international city; this emerging gulf hub; this centre of Arabian Nightlife... and what is the food and drink like?

Well, it's too hot, too sandy, too crowded, too 'international', too expensive, no pubs. It really is quite a shitty place and now that I've been there I can confidently tell the next recruitment consultant who informs me about 'spectacular job opportunity in Dubai' that 'thanks, but no thanks, I'd rather work on the moon.'

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Just desserts?

If the best starter I've eaten this year was the foie gras at the Gay Hussar, then the best dessert I've had must surely be...

Well, let's begin at the beginning, shall we?

This week my Royal British Legion colleagues and I celebrated the public launch of our MoneyForce programme with a post-launch lunch and were keen to try somewhere new and different, near the office in the Borough area.

The rooftop take on shabby chic?
And so we found The Rooftop Cafe @ The Exchange in London Bridge street.

Merely finding it is a challenge in itself as it's extremely well hidden.

One has to go into a fairly nondescript office building next door to 'All Bar One', up a couple of floors in a lift (or take the stairs as I did), then ascend several more flights of rather shabby, fire-escapey stairs before finally arriving in the loft space where you'll find the Rooftop Cafe - an open kitchen, a few tables and one private dining room where our table was waiting for us.

I try not to be swayed by the fickleness of first impressions, but getting into the place isn't a red carpet experience - it all feels sort of unfinished right now. By the Summer there will be a proper outdoor rooftop bit which will increase their capacity, and being so close to the Shard, you can see where they think the money is.

That does rely on people actually being able to find the place though.