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Review – John the Unicorn – Peckham

***UPDATE*** Ben and his sous chef Pete are no longer at JTU. Their website reflects that their menu continues to be served but I have no idea if this is actually the case or if its any good. Sad times.


I’ve turned into a weird Groupie. I just can’t help myself. I love this new Peckham pub. It’s the newest venture from  Antic Pub Co,  the creators of  The East Dulwich Tavern (ironically one of my least favourite pubs in the area) and last year’s newbie The Hope, also in Peckham.  As a result of my groupie love, I can’t stop talking about John The Unicorn and how much I love the place, especially the food.

Now I could be accused of being a little bit biased as I know the head chef Ben Mulock from Band of Bakers, but as he won me over a long time ago with his amazing food, and I’m a right picky git, I feel like it’s ok.  I’m not exactly easily swayed or scared of telling someone I know that they’re a bit pants. Time Out and Southwark News also seem to agree with me and I’m yet to hear a bad word said. Actually, that’s a little bit of a lie – my one criticism would be that along with the nearby Peckham Refreshment Rooms, some of the seats/stools are a bit un-comfy for the long-haul 😦

In the couple of months since it opened, I’ve had 4 meals, including brunch and a visit to the first supper club event and popped in for a couple of other drinks and snacks. Some of my pictures are not amazing, as whilst the upstairs is a cool and cozy spot littered with granny table lamps which makes for a nice dining atmosphere, it doesn’t make for cracking food photography (and I wouldn’t have it any other way).

If you’ve not been yet, go check it out. I’ll likely see you in there. A run down of my food eaten there so far:-


Bar Snacks

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I headed into the pub with Siobhan on a busy Saturday afternoon back in May and was talked into a Wrey and Nephew rum and ginger beer (by Siobhan, I don’t blame the bar staff – they were just super friendly and helpful). That was a mistake. I loooove rum but that shiz tastes like rank tequila and will never pass my lips again. I’m assured its much better as a shot. I’m not convinced.

What was not a mistake however, was ordering a portion of Beef Dripping Foccaccia and Yeasted Butter. And a Sausage Roll from the bar snack menu. Super munchy goodness. A portion of the sage and onion crispy pig ears also found its way onto our table and whilst the concept horrifies me, once I tucked in I got over it quite quickly – they’re essentially super crispy pork scratchings.


Evening A La Carte

Four or five of us arrived on a Saturday evening only a couple of weeks into the kitchen being open for some light eating. We’ll ignore the obscene amount I ended up spending on poncey craft beers and focus on the food! The upstairs restaurant is casual but with more formal service than I’d been anticipating – the staff were as always super friendly and didn’t mind that we weren’t wholly focused on the food offering that evening which was great. Full waiter service for a well priced bar is a win for me.

The ‘small plate’ pork belly with olive oil mash was smooth, crispy and delicious with a good meat to fat ratio. The cheeseboard isn’t to my taste as I’m super picky with cheeses but it gave the vegetarian amongst us a nice evening snack.  I sadly didn’t get snaps of any of the other things we tried.  The menu was a bit of an issue for my wheatarded friend as everything is made on site and they don’t have a great gf offering at present. The unicorn sundae, was oddly, for a non -ice cream fanatic, one of my highlights- in particular a ‘cornflake’ flavoured ice cream. It tasted like frosties milk – amazing.

I’ll certainly be going back for more evening meals but this is slightly on the pricey side for me in an it-adds-up-rather-quickly-when-you’re-a-food-fiend sort of way (it’s more than worth it but I live on a budget so have to choose wisely!).


Brunch

The next exciting announcement I gleaned from my heavy Instagram and Twitter stalking of all involved in JTU was that brunch was now being served – in particular, fried chicken and waffles with maple syrup, fried egg and hot sauce. I was in. Literally, the first weekend I was in London at the weekend, I was in and eating.

I’m pleased I checked, as they don’t open until 12 noon so whether this was really brunch could be debated but I’ll eat breakfast/brunch foods at any time of the day or night so it’s  quite frankly irrelevant. To fully set the scene, I love waffles, I love fried chicken (although I can only manage a KFC once or twice a year because it’s so sickly), my love of eggs could support a chicken farm of my own and I’ll happily pour maple syrup on basically anything. I was also, until this point, yet to have an even remotely edible version of this dish in the UK. I’ve used the word a lot already but I’ll use it again to sum up this dish- it was A.Mazing.

The waffle was soft, the egg was runny and the chicken was plentiful and super juicy/super crispy in the right ratios. I’m not a hot sauce fanatic and ketchup near eggs makes me feel a bit queasy as a concept but I ploughed through and the hot sauce here helped to elevate the dish. The little bit of microsalad was a nice touch to freshen it all up and the maple syrup appeared to have actually once been near a maple tree (‘maple flavoured’ syrup passed off as actual maple syrup is a bain of my existence). All in all, I wanted to eat the whole thing again but I couldn’t possibly as I was stuffed. And all for a tenner. Winner winner chicken and waffles dinner.


An American Supperclub – July 2016

Another Instagram/Twitter notification that I’m was all over. JTU held a special supper club evening with all of the food inspired by US soul food around Independence Day. Due to the prevalence of my friends being wheatarded/veggie/really picky, I thought I was going to be heading there on my todd but luckily my friends Jo and Matt headed over from Bromley to help me out (I don’t think they had any regrets!)

The room was arranged in two long tables and proper effort had been made to decorate the room and provide themed props. (Dining with Trump is a scary prospect, that mask nearly put me off my food!).  Food was served with 2 pre starters, a palette cleanser and the advertised 5 courses. Each course was introduced by Ben, the Head Chef.  Some of the food was brought out sharing style; causing me (and I think probably Jo) some anxiety that we’d get short changed, especially being the party of 3 on the end of the table. No fear however, we had to be rolled out the door by the end.  Matt and I also went for the beer pairing option which probably turned out to be a bit too much on a Wednesday night but was a great accompaniment to the food.

Despite my pickiness I ate everything (except the blue cheese dressing – I’m not a nutter) and it was, again, A.Mazing. Actually, also apart from the Moonshine and Smoked Bloody Mary shot. That was akin to licking the walls of the Fishing Heritage Centre! 😦

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The fried green beans with tuna-flavoured-mayo was I assume, a mild take on a nicoise salad, French in origin but super popular as a dish in the states. I’ve got some theories on how that mayo was created but however they did it, it was a super tasty and different to boot.

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The second pre starter was fried chicken (I think the same as what appears in the waffles dish) on a bed of cornbread with more maple syrup. As always the chicken was amazing and the cornbread was super moist, not an easy feat. The whole thing was topped with crispy chicken skin (which should be sold in bags like crisps) for a super savoury bite.

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The first starter proper was their take on devilled quails eggs with smoked chilli and cured pig’s cheek. I had at least 3 eggs (told you we weren’t short changed) and a good amount of pork. The whole dish together worked perfectly and I was disappointed there wasn’t more (this is a theme).

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Deep fried truffled macaroni and cheese was explained to have a ridiculous quantity of cheese to pasta ratio and this was evident in the super rich smooth interior. I’ve made deep fried mac’n’cheese before in slightly bigger chunks than this came in and in honesty, I’d have preferred a little less crispy coating to smooth pasta. However, if I’d stopped at two chunks and not ploughed through for three, that would also probably have helped! A small dollop of smooth onion jam on top also helped to cut through the richness.

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Next up was a fried shrimp cocktail served in individual portions.  A few tiny fried shrimp came on a bed of preserved peppers, white and red shredded cabbage and iceberg lettuce (for the classic touch). This was topped with two large shrimp, one with the head on and both deep fried.  I think there was also a little take on marie-rose sauce to bring the whole thing together. I hate prawn cocktail with its flaccid little cold prawns and naff salad but I used my fingers to make sure I got every last drop of this out of its glass.

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Next up was the ‘palette cleanser’ – a shot of moonshine topped with a smoked bloody mary granita. I appreciate the concept here but between a shot of hard liquor and smoky smoky crushed ice, this was not my favourite part of the meal! Luckily I had some of that ale on hand to help me out. We’ll call this an acquired taste!

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Finally we were at the main course and to be honest I was pretty full at this point! We had a smoked and glazed beef short rib with hush puppies and charred gem lettuce and blue cheese sauce. As I mentioned, I forewent the blue cheese sauce (because blue cheese is rank, I’m at least 30 years off of eating that stuff) which was a bit of a shame as I can appreciate how it would have been a nice addition to cut through the seriously smoky and tender beef and light corn batter hush puppies. I try the grilled lettuce but to be honest, it didn’t change my opinion on this being an unnecessary thing to do to a salad leaf.  Despite being incredibly full, I just about managed my allotted portion!

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To round off the evening was a peanut butter and jelly ice cream sandwich which arrived as a massive and imposing slab which I didn’t think there was any chance of me finishing. Essentially an American flavoured artic roll, there is a reason that PB&J is such a popular flavour combo.  I am grateful they avoided the perennially popular in the States grape jelly however – grapes should be for flavouring wine and making raisins (to be covered in chocolate) only!  I don’t think you’ll be surprised to learn I managed to finish it. And could maybe have eaten another one. Well, maybe not, I do have a limit it turns out!

FYI, the whole shebang cost me £50 including the beer menu and service. Bargain. Roll on the next Supperclub, I heard a rumour it may be ‘pig’ themed. I’ll be there with bells on.


Sunday Lunch

My most recent eating foray was to take my Dad and his partner Jan who were visiting for the start of my thirtieth celebrations for an alternative Sunday Lunch. I was a bit worried that they’d find it a bit pricey and small portioned considering you can get a carvery near where they live for about £7 and roll home. I needn’t have worried – some savvy menu choosing later and we shared some Beef Dripping Focaccia, Crispy Pigs Ears, some wonderful chips and a plate of Buratta with Chilli’d Sprouting Broccoli. No pictures available sadly because we were too busy eating!

For the main course, we shared two plates of smoked beef short rib with kale and onions and roast potatoes with jus and a plate of the chicken and waffles (because I couldn’t not have them again!). The short rib was stunning, just as it had been at the supperclub event and the soft kale with onions was an excellent accompaniment and surprisingly spicy. The roast potatoes were also ridiculously crispy and tasty and a sticky meaty jus brought everything together. Another win.

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For desert we shared a couple of Unicorn Sundaes. I’m hoping at some point that some more desserts appear than the usual 2 or 3 offerings but we’re still on early days!

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