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, October 6, 2022

Bass is just another beer

The sad loss of our Queen last month will have affected different people in different ways.

For me, it brought about a rather shameful realisation. Specifically, about the Corgis.

You see, I had assumed, for my entire life, that having Corgis as pets was just what the monarch did - a bit like sitting on a throne or owning the Crown Jewels. Corgis went with the job.

Queen. Throne. Jewels. Corgis. 

This I learned from an early age, probably about four or five, but it was never explained to me that liking a certain breed of dog just happened to be a personal preference of the individual who was currently the Queen, and given that the reigning monarch never actually changed, I carried on with this assumption until, quite literally, just the other day.

I genuinely didn't realise that they were unique to Elizabeth II.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

BV London Pub of the Year 2021-22 - the results

As the returning officer for the constituency of London Pub of the Year 2021-22 I hereby declare the top five pubs in this years competition are as follows:

(If you haven't yet familiarised yourselves with the eight contenders - the 'ballot paper', if you will, you may possibly want read parts one and two where I review the pubs. And avert your eyes because the results are coming up.)

After an enforced three-year break, this years competition has been a fascinating one. It's Truss vs Sunak all over again, only this time Badenoch wins. Or something.

Anyhow, let's crack the fuck on...

Monday, August 8, 2022

GBBF 2022: Hello, old friend!

Three years is a long time in beer. 

With the 2020 and 2021 Great British Beer Festivals successively cancelled due to some sort of 'pandemic' or other, it's been a long time to wait, but last week the agony of waiting was finally over. GBBF came back!

I first attended the GBBF in 1994 and have been back every year since, so it's pretty much a part of my DNA now, and I've seen it change and evolve gradually over the years.

I particularly enjoyed myself in 2018, and 2019 wasn't bad either, but following two years of missing out, even a terrible GBBF would've been good, if that makes sense.  

Monday, July 18, 2022

BV London Pub of the Year 2021-22 - part two

What's hotter than the current ambient temperature and more competitive than the race to be Prime Minister?

Why, yes, it's the second part of the long-overdue Return of the Revenge of the Pub of the Year!

If you haven't already read part one, you might want to so so first. Otherwise, here we go with the remainder of this year's contest. Let's find the best pub in London, shall we?

And, not unexcitingly, we happen to begin with two former winners!

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

BV London Pub of the Year 2021-22 - part one

It might not feel like it, but it was fully ten years ago that I launched my London Pub of the Year award. 

And now, at last, it's back!

Yep, after a long wait it's time to once again pick my favourite pub in the Greater London area from the past 12 months. God I've missed doing this.

Counting down to the end of lockdown!
The last couple of years have been a bit, well, disrupted, and you'll probably know that for the 2019-21 period I decided upon a 'special award' for the Kentish Belle in Bexleyheath who went above and beyond the call of duty during the first lockdown as well as being a damn good pub the rest of the time. (Well, it was originally only going to be for 2019-20, but further lockdowns meant that this effectively held true for an additional year!)

Anyway, because I wasn't able to run the contest and do full pub surveys for the past two years, we're going to have a completely fresh start, and then - fingers crossed, no more fucking lockdowns please! - return to normal this time next year.

So, this year's competition will consist of eight pubs, including previous winners, returning old favourites and a couple of new entries, and the top five will automatically come back next year, alongside five new ones to keep things fresh.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

1000 new beers at the Radius!

Picture the scene:

It's a little over six years ago. Mrs B-V and I have decided we're going to move out of London and are house-hunting in the East Surrey area.

One of the important factors in our search is having a good pub nearby. A pub where we can get to know the locals and make it a key component of our day-to-day lives and, crucially, a pub where there will be ever-changing cask beer that will allow me to easily indulge my hobby - nay, my lifestyle - as a ticker.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Preparing to fight the Imperial War

"I'm no 44.5 kilogram weakling but I always go the extra 1609 metres. I'll continue to drink the occasional 568 millilitres and eat 113-grammers until I'm 183 centimetres under..."

It's been in the what-passes-for-news-these-days recently that retailers might, at some point, be given the option to use Imperial measurements when selling us apples and dried pulses and pork scratchings or whatever we want to buy.

You know, pounds, ounces, maybe even hundredweights if you're buying something absolutely fucking massive.

We won't know exactly what these measures will look like, if indeed anything changes at all, until we see the result of the consultation, but the gist of it is that nobody is going to be compelled to do anything differently - this would, in all likelihood, actually represent a relaxation of the current legislation (with its origins, predictably, in the EU) which forces retailers to use metric, whatever the context.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Jubilee-free lines

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the double Bank Holiday and some sort of  'Jubilee' celebration, apparently one of such Platinumness that the likes of it will ne'er be seen again in our lifetimest.

Anyway, it is perhaps more notable because I have yet to drink a single Jubilee-themed ale this time. Not a single one. And, believe me, if I'd found some available I'd have purchased and consumed them.

Was it really ten of the Queen's Whole Years ago that I blogged about the Diamond Jubilee and imparted fairly disparaging reviews of the beers brewed to mark the occasion? 

Why, yes. Yes, it was. I've been around longer than a decade. Who'd have thought it?

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Crystal report

If you're a Croydon-based fan of Wetherspoons, you might be feeling a bit sorry for yourself lately.

Coming soon... fuck all
In February this year, the town-centre Milan Bar closed its doors for the last time, and the following month saw the loss - despite a petition to save it reaching over 1,000 signatories in less than a week - of the Skylark, a few hundred yards to the South. 

Having lost the Ship of Fools a few years ago, there is now just one Spoons in an area that once had four. Even with my mixed feelings generally about Spoons, I think that's a right shame.

Anyway, I tried to visit these pubs a few times before they bit the Wetherdust, which gave me the opportunity to check out eateries in the area. 

One of which is the 'traditional Persian' menu at Crystal.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Lost Breweries: L is for Little Beer

About five years ago, I was talking to a mate who was looking to get into craft brewing professionally and was struggling to come up with a name that wasn't either completely fucking shit or already in use.

Beers that never were
I suggested 'Assassin', with the strapline 'beers to kill for' and, the concept meeting with vague approval,  went away and came up with a few ideas for the brand. The beers would be named Blonde Assassin, Red Assassin, Strong Assassin, West Coast Assassin, Christmas Assassin and so on... it seemed like a solid enough idea at the time. 

Matt decided against a career in the beer business, possibly after learning that it mostly involved cleaning equipment, and Assassin Brewing was, alas, never to be.

To be honest, it's not something that particularly keeps me awake at night.

Well, not often.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Enjoy it while you can!

In a few weeks time I shall be 45, and, unless there are some big developments in the health and fitness sector, this probably means that I am more than half way through my life.

That's a sobering thought in and of itself, but getting older pushes me more and more down the comfortable pipe of nostalgia where slightly melancholic memories hold more sway than the contemporary world.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about trying new things. Drinking new beers, eating new foods, visiting new places - I largely measure my life by 'ticks' - but that doesn't mean I'm remotely comfortable when the old things disappear from the world. 

And they don't even have to be that old.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Golden Pints: BV's best beers of 2021

Well, it's now 2022, which means it's time to look back on my favourite beers of the past year.  

It's been another year disrupted by lockdowns, restrictions and - in my view - unnecessarily draconian - legislation, but, hey, we're all still here. Apart from the Duke of Edinburgh, obviously. And Alan Bradley. Well, the actor who once played him.

Now as you'll almost certainly know, my drinking preference - the default position if you like - is to drink cask beer in a pub, and, putting it politely, that habit isn't altogether compatible with the COVID situation. I didn't even get to drink a pint at a pub until April 11, when the grand midnight re-opening at PotY The Kentish Belle marked perhaps the most memorable quenching of thirst in history!  

But let's not let such happy occasions distract us from the sad fact that the hospitality industry is still suffering, and the biggest threat of all is to places that rely on selling cask beer!