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, July 31, 2013

BV London Pub of the Year 2012-13 - part one

Alright, you. The waiting is over.

It's time for this years Pub of the Year award, and what a Pub of the Year award it's going to be. We're gonna get a trophy and everything this time!

Today we'll be reassessing last year's top five to see if they're still up to scratch, while in part two the five new challengers will be unveiled.

Following some feedback from landlords I have decided to change things a tiny bit - pubs that don't have 'a kitchen' but who do provide cold snacks like pies and scotch eggs will now be eligible for a point (or indeed a minus point) for food. Otherwise, the scoring system is the same as it was last year.

I've drunk in (or perhaps been drunk in) all ten pubs several times over the past year and in between pints of Black IPA and bags of pork scratchings I've formed some strong opinions. Then I've discarded them, re-formed them, like re-formed ham, and finally come to some pretty fucking conclusive conclusions.

Hold tight, we're going for a ride. To the pub:

Saturday, July 20, 2013

'Dam you, 'Dam you all to Hell!

This isn't the place for me to bang on about the (mis)fortunes of my football team. There's enough reporting elsewhere of the shambolic clusterfuck that is Coventry City and the clueless Hedge Fund managers destroying our poor club.

Suffice it to say that when new owners come in to save you from Administration, you don't expect to be in a situation five years later where your squad has been asset-stripped to the barest of bones, you've been relegated to the lowest division you've played in for 50 years, you're in self-imposed exile from your own fucking stadium for not paying the rent for a year, you've alienated the vast majority of your supporters and you've still fucking well ended up in Administration anyway!

Amsterdam, home of window shopping...
What's more, the day-to-day running of the club is now so shockingly bad that no new depths of incompetence can surprise me any more.

We were supposed to be playing Dutch side Go Ahead Eagles on Tuesday, but ironically the game didn't go ahead, and was replaced at the last minute with a fixture in the middle of nowhere, the other side of the German border - completely inaccessible for us fans who had already booked flights and accomodation in Holland.

And so, that's how Mrs B-V and I happened to have a couple of completely unplanned days hanging around Amsterdam this week instead of watching a 6-0 win against non-league German minnows Wachtendonk.

Still, I'd never actually been to the Dam (or indeed anywhere in Holland) before, and was vaguely hopeful of some good beer and interesting food...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The ultimate Stroganoff

I was saying the other day, following the trip to Moscow, that I can cook a tastier Beef Stroganoff than the rather bland version I found in Russia itself.

Inexcusably boastful, I'm sure, so I wanted to back that up with something concrete. Something on a plate. Something you can actually fucking well eat!

Now, it's not a dish I've cooked all that often, and my recipe has probably been slightly different each time. But now I've sampled it in Moscow, it's clearly was high time I came up with my definitive 'Strog'.

The influences are myriad, drawing upon research into very old and traditional Russian recipes for the dish, but I've added a wider Eastern European angle through the inclusion of chicken livers.

There's even a hint of the good old curry house about it, as I looked for ways to include tomatoes, which are apparently one of the traditional components, along with the wine and cream.

And so, this is what I've come up with. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Tanked up? Fuck off!

So, having got through all the ales I needed at the White Horse's American beer festival last night, I decided to try the new 'Tankovna' version of Pilsner Urquell.

Now, my view on Pilsner Urquell is very simple:

Firstly, the normal keg version is just typical fizzy Eurorubbish.

But from a wooden cask - as sampled at this same pub last year- it is very nice indeed. Completely different stuff, and I considered it worth blogging about, which I'd rarely do for a single beer.

By all accounts, the 'fresh tank beer' version should be somewhere in between the two. Might it even be better than the cask version? I've heard people raving about it of late.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Sicklehammer would be a great name for a band, wouldn't it?

We were flying back from Moscow at exactly the same time as Edward Snowden was flying in the opposite direction.

A week later, he's still stuck at the airport - I can vouch for the long queues, complicated, expensive visas and overly fussy customs and immigration processes, but a whole week is ridiculous!

But then Julian Assange has been happily living in some 3rd Division country's embasssy for a year now. Maybe these are the prices one pays for a life of consciencious whistleblowing (or perhaps self-important attention-seeking).

I thought this 'we're all being spied on 24/7' went out of the window years ago with the demise of the old USSR, but apparently not. Maybe in some ways we're all still living there waving our hammers and sickles around, and I didn't actually need to visit Moscow after all?

Walking past the mummified corpse of Lenin I made some throwaway comment about how amusing it would be if he suddenly opened his eyes and sat bolt upright... and a security guard angrily sidled up behind me before I'd even finished the sentence.

Of course, I didn't notice at the time because it was quite dark in there and I was already writing a screenplay in my mind where Vladimir the Revolutionary Zombie gets into all sorts of hilarious scrapes.

In my contended obliviousness I didn't realise what was happening until Mrs B-V told me later on, long after Mr. KGB had decreed that I wasn't a legitimate threat to his great, deceased leader. And maybe we don't notice when our governments back home are spying on us either?