With the rebuilding of the overground station and lots of redevelopment in the surrounding area in recent years, Farringdon lost some of the many cool venues (eg Turnmills) I used to frequent. So I was pleased to here some character coming back to EC1 with the opening of bar-restaurant Ask For Janice last year. I had wanted to visit for some time, so with Christmas approaching, one of my friends and I popped along for some festive food and drink last week.
Ask For Janice is located across the road from Smithfield Market, so has plenty of visual stimulation for people watchers visiting during trading hours. With exposed pipework and brick walls, the venue has an industrial look with the vintage school-esque furniture and neon lighting bringing a sense of warmth. We were given a spot by the windows on high stools which was cosy and intimate, with low-lighting and a subtle beat in the background giving a decidedly evening vibe (quite different I should imagine to those who visit in the day for breakfast or lunch).
Our main objective was to try the special Christmas cocktail menu – comprising of three festive tipples. Of course, we had to try all of them. As I was slightly peckish on arrival, I first went for the most food-like of the drinks – the ‘Janice Eggnog’ – made from an egg and dusted with nutmeg which was deliciously frothy. Next was after something a bit more sophisticated, the ‘Berry Christmas’ – a measure of Janice’s own Sloe Gin, with cranberry syrup and Prosecco, topped with cranberries and a sprig of rosemary, which was refreshing with elements of sweetness, with the herbs giving the Prosecco a bit of a kick. Finally, to finish it was an old ’70s classic – which admittedly I had never tried before – the ‘Snowball’ – made of Advocaat, Sherry and Lemonade. It was sweet and light and actually my favourite drink of the three Christmas choices.
AFJ’s menu is seasonal and sourced, with the options of snacks, small plates for sharing or separate dishes. Being the season for sharing, my friend and I opted for the small plates, choosing Garlic Fries, Black Badger Bean Hummus, Buttermilk and Sweetcorn Fritters and Crown Prince Squash, Cobnuts and Norfolk Fava Bean Croquettes. They were equally tasty, although I particularly enjoyed the fritters. The freshness of the ingredients were clear and I really thought the different dishes complemented each other well.
Overall, we had a lovely evening. The staff were friendly and attentive, there was a lovely atmosphere and most important the food and drink were good. Christmas cocktails aside, there’s an extensive beer and wine menu, with many craft ales available. I’ll have to make a repeat visit to check out their breakfast menu.
- Ask For Janice, 50-52 Long Lane, Smithfield, EC1A 9EJ. Nearest station: Farringdon or Barbican. For more information, visit the Ask For Janice website.
American burger bars appear to be the ‘thing’ in London right now. Successful restaurants are fast expanding into chains, with Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Byron and Honest Burgers just a few examples. In between the expensive gourmet eateries and the budget, fast food likes of McDonald’s and Burger King is – in my opinion – Tinseltown. A Hollywood-inspired (hence the name!), good value chain, with branches in Farringdon, Hampstead, Baywater, Gants Hill, Great Portland Street and Wood Green.
The Farringdon branch is open until 3/4/5am (depending on the night) so is a much better alternative than a greasy kebab shop if you’ve got the late night munchies. A friend and I visit the branch on July 4 (US Independence Day rather appropriately!) for a late lunch, which was just a couple of minutes from Farringdon tube and located in a basement near the newest branch of Burger & Lobster. Billed as an ‘American Diner and Milkshake Bar’, it offers a wide range of grilled meats, burgers, wraps and burritos. Some of the burgers are eye-wateringly huge – 20 oz for those with a big appetite – while there are also normal 5oz if you don’t want to go too crazy. The menu also offers Bollywood chicken burgers and vegetarian burgers too.
When we arrived, we were greeted by a friendly member of staff who showed us to a green booth. As it is located in a basement there are no windows, but the venue is decked out in TV screens, posters of Hollywood stars and features a mix of booths and regular tables. Being a late night venue, I’m sure the restaurant gets a bit of wear and tear by drunken partygoers so I did think the decor looks a little tired.
The hardest part of ordering for me was deciding on which flavour milkshake. I have never seen such an extensive milkshake menu in my life. I started off with a Twix chocolate shake, then a banana and chocolate one. They were divine and great value at £3.33. For my lunch, I ordered a veggie burger with cheese – a pattie served with a side of your choice (I chose mashed potato) for £7.49. Although I was expecting more from the venue’s interior, the service was fast and friendly and the food was tasty and good value. During the day, it was mostly students so I did feel slightly older, but I’m sure there is probably a very different clientele at 1am. Overall, I though it was fairly good, but I have other burger bars I prefer so not sure how often I would return. Would be a great choice for late night munchies though (particularly if you’re at Fabric around the corner) as the alternatives are not great. However, the milkshake choice and taste were brilliant.
- Tinseltown, 44-46 St John St, Farringdon, EC1M 4DF. Nearest tube: Farringdon. Open Mon-Thu midday-5am, Fri-Sat midday-4am, Sun midday-3am. For more information and menus, visit Tinseltown’s website.
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