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!

Monday, April 12, 2021

#CaskIsBack

Last night was, it's fair to say, a bit of a good 'un. 

Technically it was of course this morning. On the stroke of Midnight the latest lockdown came - sort of - to an end, and we were allowed to drink in a pub for the first time this year. Well, outside of a pub.

That's quite a lot of caveat, but it mattered not to the assembled drinkers and gathered press outside the Kentish Belle in the small hours of the morning. We were there for one thing. A taste of freedom. And beer.

For me it was mostly about getting pints of cask ale inside me. The first - Surrey XPA from the Dorking brewery - went down in one, and by 12:02 I was on my second pint (Crafty's Loxhill Biscuit) which didn't last much longer. It's April 12 and #CaskIsBack. Oh yes.

 

That's right, #CaskIsBack

I've got several further visits to the pub planned for this week as I look to get back into something approaching a 'normal' routine (yeah, yeah, outside only, masks, social distancing, I know, I know...) but the first couple of pints were always going to be very special.

(Alanis Morissette could probably sing about how I spent two hours traveling from my home in Surrey to get there, only to start off with two beers from Surrey breweries!)

More beers were consumed, conversations with strangers were had, new connections were made, Sun Journos gave us rollups to smoke - it almost felt like things were back to normal, if we weren't all sitting out in the cold on a high street in Bexleyheath in the middle of the night!

The anticipation builds at 11:59 PM...

We haven't had much to celebrate lately and it seemed fitting to mark the occasion with something a bit special, rather than simply turning up at a Wetherspoons with a beer garden this afternoon. 

My final pints in mid-December before the latest lockdown kicked in were had here, so it seemed an appropriate destination, and Nick's brilliant idea to open up the pub as early as possible gained extensive media coverage which added to the sense of occasion.

I gave a brief interview to the New York Times, and got my photo in the Mail Online. The Mail's comments section illustrates sadly that a lot of people really don't understand what is so special and unique about visiting a pub and supping a few pints of real beer and why we might want to do so in the midst of the night.

The Kentish Belle of course does 'get it' and in just three years Nick has built a great little pub with a stylistically varied range of beers, cask always kept in fabulous condition, and a knack for sourcing rare and one-off beers you're just not going to find anywhere else.

It was this can-do attitude that won the Belle the special London Pub of the Year award during lockdown last Summer. Don't be surprised if it wins again this year, and this time if all the COVID restrictions have become a distant memory we'll have a proper trophy presentation and a bit of a party.


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