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!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

BV London Pub of the Year 2013-14 - the results

Some jobs are very straightforward.

Look at human statues, for example. They barely move, and yet all-too-frequently have the temerity to expect payment for their efforts! Piss easy.

Being the bass player in the Stereo MCs is also an incredibly easy job. The bassline of 'Connected' contains, literally, one note (an F#), repeated about 500 times. Again, an absolute pissing piece of pissy piss.

A far more challenging task, however, is working out the podium finishes in the Pub of the Year. Believe me, I've spent many sleepless nights staying up weighing up the merits of each pub, trying to work out who should come where in the pecking order and listening to Stereo MCs.

But the wait is over. It's time to reveal the top five pubs in London and crown the 2013-2014 winner!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

White lines (Do do it!)

The debate over the harmfulness of electronic cigarettes has been one of this year's hot topics, with industry assertions that using them is safer than staying indoors wrapped in cotton wool tempered by more cautionary counter-claims.

One thing's for certain though - they've really taken off like a big tobaccoey firework. You see a hell of a lot a lot of people vaping these days, not all of them cigarette smokers trying to quit either.

I myself own an e-cig purely for occasional, recreational use whenever I can get hold of refill cartridges in nice fruity flavours. Or chocolate, obviously. OK, and vanilla.

Whether it's harmful or not is fairly immaterial to me, as I consider real smoking a calculated risk worth taking in order to enjoy the occasional briar pipe or watermelon shisha.

But I've held the view for some years now that there is a genuinely 99.99% safe 'vice' that still feels a bit, well, naughty, and yet hardly anybody is aware of it. And it's incredibly enjoyable.

I'm talking about white snuff. Specifically, Schneeberg.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A first timer's guide to the GBBF - from a GBBF old timer

So, the GBBF starts tomorrow, and I've been looking forward to it since, well, since the last one! If I had a calendar, I'd have been crossing off the days in a big red marker pen (but not sniffing the nib afterwards, because that's solvent abuse, kids).

GBBF 2014 Logo

Alcohol abuse, on the other hand, is perfectly fine - so long as it takes place within the awesomeness of a big fuck-off beer festival.

I've been going for 20 years now, and while it was always a unique event, it's now bigger and better than ever and looms like a vast, beery ox in a year-round field of chickens. The very anticipation causes me to come up with fucktarded metaphors.

Anyway, the sheer massiveness of it all it can be a tad daunting for GBBF virgins, so following on from my rough guide to British beer festivals, here are a few friendly tips for anyone who perhaps doesn't have an awful lot of GBBF experience:

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Second to Naan

So, Mrs B-V and I have been up in Yorkshire for a couple of days, mostly to drink beer and watch our annual opening-day defeat. No surprises there.

Ben Viveur pictured with extremely large naan bread
No way, no fucking way!
But we discovered, completely by accident, a lovely little pub - the Fox in Shipley - as well as visiting several favourite haunts in the city of York, and there was a surprise in store there too.

The biggest-by-fucking-miles naan bread I've seen in my entire 37 years.

Honestly, I couldn't believe it. Let alone eat the bastard.

Overall, the food at Akbar's is pretty indifferent and consists basically of a few simple variations upon a standard Balti theme, some of which weren't as saucy as their clearly needed to be.

But the huge naans, served upright on vast spikey towers, are blogworthy out of their sheer ridiculousness.

This wasn't some sort of special Guinness Book of Records attempt or anything either - it's a standard menu item. Most people seemed to have one on their table!

It utterly dwarfed my garlic chicken tikka balti, which itself was a decent size.

I guess things are bigger up north. Though not necessarily better...

Monday, August 4, 2014

BV London Pub of the Year 2013-14 - part four

Alrighty then, it's the final three contenders in this year's Pub of the Year competition. But first, a very brief Q&A following a couple of questions readers have been asking me. Pfft. Readers, eh? Eh...?

Q: Is any pub ever going to score the full 10 points? 

A: Well, the theoretical maximum is actually nine points, and this has been the case since the competition began (it also applies, in a looser sense, to my restaurant reviews - I'm a big fan of the 9* system). As to whether any pub could pick up a perfect score, it's certainly possible, and combining aspects from two of the finalists should give a hefty fucking clue as to how this might be achieved. When it happens, it'll happen.

Q: Why limit the bonus points to 2?

A: Quite simply, because if I allowed pubs to pick up bonuses for everything good about them, they could build up a tally beyond the maximum, and pubs which had a few nice features but average or even piss-poor could theoretically score highly. It's the same reason why food, even supertasty Zeus-food is only worth between -1 and 1 points. This is a pub competition and the scoring system is weighted so that the quality and range of real beer is by far the most important - though not always decisive - factor.

Now on to the final three pubs...

Friday, August 1, 2014

BV London Pub of the Year 2013-14 - part three

OK, so, it's the first batch of the new contenders. Can they challenge the early pacesetters and defending champions?

Given the choice between coming up with a hilarious and thought-provoking intro and diving straight into the pubs, I chose the latter. Enjoy!