“ 51-53 Southwark Street / London / SE1 1RU / Tel: 0871 0755802. „
I am offering a reward as a thank you to the very kind passenger who helped me back into the seat on a No. 4 bus travelling from Aylesbury bus station on the 24th Novemer, 2004. I appreciated your help getting me off of the bus when I arrived at the bus stop at Taylor Road,Aylesbury. The bus had been going too fast round a round about,which is why I was thrown to the floor of the bus. Please leave a message so I can contact you re a small cash reward as an appreciation for your kindness.
The Menier Chocolate Factory is a bit of a hidden gem, and I am not really sure if I want to share it with you, but seeing as I am skint and I do want to go back again, I am going to pimp it out to all of you and get me some pennies!
~What is it?~
The Menier Chocolate Factory is as the name suggests an old chocolate factory, built in the 1870's it's main purpose was to house a chocolate factory, today it has been converted into a gallery, restaurant, theatre and rehearsal room.
Now I had never heard of the Chocolate Factory, despite it being on my walking route home from work, my cycling route home from work and I also went past it everyday on the train when I was still commuting. I only discovered it because, this year, I was put in charge of arranging the work Christmas party, with over 30 people to please I had my work cut out - I was not going to let my good name be dragged through the dirt with a half arsed attempt at a party! The criteria was - must be walking distance from work, have excellent traditional fodder, have a lunch time slot available and be better than all the years before!
So I stumbled across this place using Toptable and thought I would check out the website - www.menierchocolatefactory.com, the website did take a while to load up, but when it was all loaded I clicked quickly on the Christmas menu and was sufficiently impressed, a three course Christmas menu for £25 or a more elaborate version for £35.
Next thing I decided to click on was the restaurant link at the top of the page, there was a bit of a blurb about how wonderful they were and a piccie, to be honest I was not really that impressed by the pic, as it looked like one of those horrid mid - late 90's shots of people falsely enjoying their "night out". Anyway, I clicked on a couple of their menu links and my mouth began to sufficiently water, so thought, why not have a click around the rest of the site and try and suss these guys out.
The site does offer 360 degree tours of all their rooms, so I decided to take a look at the restaurant, I still wasn't too sure, it looked a bit shabby and old manny, but I thought what the heck and went ahead and sent an enquiry for our Christmas booking (still via the website), and carried on having a look around.
From what I could tell, the main emphasis of the factory is the theatre, but what they seem to be offering at the moment really doesn't appeal it seems to be some sort of comedian called Jeremy Lion, think he is one for the kiddies!
Whilst clicking around the site, I noticed one of the 3 button links down the side - "Like Jazz For Chocolate" - apparently every 3rd Thursday of the month there was live Jazz - hmm interesting the 3rd Thursday of the month was this week....hmmm
~Casing the Joint~
Well I thought that seeing as I was putting my good name on the line, I should really check the place out, just in case the food was shoddy or the venue was something that was a similar colour to chocolate. Luckily, it had been about half an hour since I had sent off my booking enquiry, when I noticed that in my inbox I had an email from a very nice man named Darren, who was apparently the manager of the place, so I decided to call him up to see whether he could accommodate us all - which he could due to a cancellation, then I cheekily enquired about the Jazz night and whether they had space for two little ones. Apparently the Jazz nights are normally fully booked about a week before, but he managed to squeeze us in at about 8ish - yay!
So Thursday night comes round and boyfie and I stop decorating early and get ourselves cleaned up and wander down to the Factory. On our way into the Factory, we catch a glimpse of their Gallery, which looks very nice, there are people mulling around looking profoundly at the art and drinking the free drinks - very nice! Upon entering the restaurant, we are warmly greeted by Darren and shown to our seats.
The room itself is quite large and I am told that they can seat a maximum of about 60 - 66 people, I think that they could seat more, but they aren't trying to cram people in - well done them! In the middle of the room is a large raised platform area with people sitting having their dinner and round the edges are a couple more tables, there are also a few really comfy looking sofas around where some people are eating.
So sitting at our table, after having taken in our surroundings, our attentions turn to the Jazz band, hmm...they seem ok, non-offensive, actually creating a really nice atmosphere. The restaurant seems ram-a-jammed and there are large parties of people everywhere, I decide to take a look at the plates going back to the kitchen - they all seem empty, now this leaves two options, the first is the food is brilliant, or the second - the portions are tiny....
Anyway we take a look at the menu and a nice waiter tells us the specials of the day, one of them is roasted duck breast with honey glazed parsnips, boyfie promptly puts down his menu and has already decided. The menu itself is not too glamorous, I must admit I was pretty disappointed at the presentation, it was on a thick piece of card, but that's got nothing to do with the food has it? I must say, though, I was a bit disappointed in the lack of chocolate on the menu, I was half expecting things like Venison in a rich dark chocolate sauce or something along those lines.
Anyway, the menu is pretty simple, the Haddock and Mackerel fish cake seemed to be calling to me, but dandelion and rocket salad was putting me off a bit, not really sure how I stand on consuming dandelions, but it did sound good. Other dishes included speciality bangers and mash (veggie bangers also available), Pasta of the day, burger, steak, roast rump of lamp, well you get the idea, there is something for everyone, nothing too pretentious here. In the end I decide to go for Paella risotto (can be ordered as a starter too).
The food arrives and is beautifully presented, boyfies duck is amazing, so much so that he even offers to let me have it and have my paella, it was cooked to perfection and melted in your mouth, ohh and the sauce was some sort of port reduction, we weren't really sure but it was brilliant, everything worked brilliantly. The paella was lovely too, it was more of a risotto, nice and rich and creamy, topped with parmesan, there wasn't so much parmesan that it made you feel sick, but there was enough so that you could get a bit in every mouthful, ohh my mouth is watering as I type!
We had also ordered bread and olives to start, but once the main courses came out, these were quickly forgotten about. The bread and olives were £3, and you got 3 decent slices of brown bread and 3 bits of baguette, nicely chopped up - very reasonable for London, I was impressed.
When the nice waiter came to ask us about dessert, boyfie and I decided to share their special dessert which was chocolate brownie cake with some ice-cream - this was to die for, the chocolate cake was warm and squidgy, and the ice-cream was melting into the brownie, oh and there was oodles of hot chocolate sauce drizzled all over the plate! mmmm!!!
Boyfie and I ordered off the a la carte menu, but there are a couple of other menus available, there is a light bites menu, which range from £2.50 for olives right up to £8 for platters. There is also a pre theatre menu, where 2 courses will cost you £12 or 3 courses will cost you £15. The menu on the site at the moment is only available for the Jeremy Lions blokie and I think this is reflected in the food that they are serving. Starters - Alphabet Pasta (homemade mind you!) or Hedge Hogs (meatballs) - Mains are fish finger sarnies or eggs chips and beans (the beans are Tabasco and coriander though - not your regular Heinz variety), pods are jam sponge with custard or sorbet!
~Pricing & Service~
Our meal that evening came to £68, including drinks & service oh and a packet of camels (the cigs, not the animal!), which really is not bad when you think about it - we had had 3 glasses of a really nice Merlot (we should really have ordered the bottle, but hey!), beer, coffee, bottle of still water, bottle of cocamarola, oh and coi-fee. I really don't think that for what we had this was anything extortionate, each of our main courses came in at £12 each. Main courses start at £8 and go up to £16.50 (roast rump of lamb), starters/side orders start at £3 and go up to £8 (scallops in parma ham with quail's eggs on toasted brioche with bloody mary vinaigrette - tasty!).
The service was really nice, we arrived and were not hassled or hurried, the staff were busy, and unfortunately did forget things a couple of times, but they were really busy and I only counted about 4 of them. When we asked where we could get cigarettes, the waiter hurried off and bought us back a packet and told us he had added it to our bill for us - nice touch!
I am being lazy, it is a short walk from London Bridge Station and on Southwark street (close to Southwark bridge) - turn left out of London Bridge Station, then turn right down Southwark Street (head towards Waterloo) the Chocolate Factory will be on your left. Oh and if you are on the train going between London Bridge and Waterloo, take a look out the right hand window and you will be able to see the Chocolate Factory's billboard (London Bridge -> Waterloo).
Oh for any of you that are interested, my boss gave the booking form to a manager, because I was decorating my flat and away for a couple of days, he forgot to send it back and as a result we lost our booking for Christmas - silly tart!
Thanks for reading guys x