Archives for the month of: November, 2013

A few more updates from TableCrowd HQ. We’ve been busy as usual.

Joined a Sharing Economy committee led by Sooquini to talk and make plans for the industry. This tied in nicely with TableCrowd’s Sharing Economy Startups “Meet & Eat” that had been in the diary for a while. You can read how it went here and see the follow up press that the dinner generated on Tech City News, here. Also look out for the podcast on Tech City Insider that will be published soon.

We were selected to appear in PITCH at the Global Web Summit, as well as exhibit. The #WebSummit is described as the ‘meeting of 10,000 of the brightest minds’. Flattered. The event was enormous with 100′s of inspiring companies descending on Dublin from all around the world. And to follow the Day Summit was the Night Summit – bars and live music venues packed out. It was a really valuable event to be part of; although it was quite ironic that there was no WIFI on day one – perhaps the reason for the rebrand from ‘The Web Summit to ‘The Summit’. Whilst in Dublin we made front page news in the national press, The Irish Times.

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web summit

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web summit2We dropped a last minute application into Vator Splash London and we made it through into the semi’s and then the finals, which means we were up on stage at the home of great sunsets, Level 39, pitching in front of investors and sponsors on 7th November. An impressive high profile event with a great calibre of speaker and startups.

kate founder blogThere have been some great dinners this month for entrepreneurs. We had experienced Finance Director from The Growth Lab, Rachel Cheal, join us to answer those finance burning questions. We also had dinner with Sian Skelton from Taylor Wessing, on the topic of Intellectual Property law.

You can view all our upcoming dinners here.

Introducing Sarah, one of our TableCrowd members. See how Sarah got on at her latest “Friday Night Fun and Pan-Asian Street Food“ dinner, in her latest blog:

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Despite considering myself a sociable, friendly person after a very hectic week at work I was a little nervous about meeting a group of strangers for dinner. I was reassured though as it was a full table I was sure that a group of seven would have more than enough to chat about.

We dined at the Asian Street Food restaurant http://kinstreetfood.com/ on Leather Lane and as soon as I arrived I knew it was a good choice.

kin

Its website describes it as “a small, family-run restaurant offering fresh, tasty, healthy pan-Asian street food at affordable prices.” And I think that is a perfect description!

It’s only a small restaurant but is really cosily decorated, warm and inviting. All the waiting staff were efficient and welcoming. The manager also made the effort to come over, introduce herself and explain she knew about TableCrowd and was excited by our visit. Throughout the evening we were chatting so much we had to keep asking for “five more minutes” to check the menus and order, however, saying that we never felt rushed or hurried.

In my group were Karen, Jay, Max, Seref and Jon and all had been to a TableCrowd before – only Andrew, like myself was a newcomer, I think I can confidently say we both enjoyed the first experience. Even before the starters we were all bonding over an eclectic mix of subjects such as yoga which several of us enjoy – I actually was on the soft drinks (yawn!), due to a yoga class the next morning. Other subjects touched on over the course of the night included salsa dancing, stand-up comedy, London walking tours, fireworks and our love/hate of Gaudi sites in Barcelona! It was a really relaxing atmosphere and we all were chatty, engaging folk with plenty to talk about.

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The menu itself was a an interesting mix of Asian dishes from a variety of countries – so there were recognisable dishes such as Pad Thai and Chicken Satay – mixed with the more unusual. They also have a regularly changing specials selection. We asked about an offer and we found out you get 20% discount if you order a minimum of two main courses, which with the seven of us, was easily done!

I played it safe with my starter and went for a favourite – Chicken Satay, it was delicious and everyone else also said the same about their dishes – Jon particularly enjoyed his Pot Stickers (dumplings served with a dipping sauce). For the main course I decided to live on the edge and ordered the Prawn Pad Kee Mao – which was described as “Super​ spicy wok fried flat rice noodle dish (aka’drunken noodles’) with vegetables, thai basil, chillies & finely chopped lemongrass”

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I asked the waitress how hot it was and she said ‘medium’ so as a fan of spicy foods I thought I would enjoy it. It was, it had to be said a bit too hot for me and I was defeated! Andrew ordered the chicken version and also asked for it ‘spicy’ and I think he might have slightly regretted upping the stakes! But he put on a brave face and stoically cleaned his plate! Everyone else’s dishes were less spicy and each person said they enjoyed them. If I had any complaint I would say that there was not that many prawns in the actual dish – only four or five, whereas Andrew looked like he had more chicken in his.

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After a few more drinks and a chair re-shuffle swap suggested by TableCrowd veteran Jay, most of us also had a desert – I picked the banana fritters which were served with coconut ice cream and syrup on the side – they were delicious!

When the bill came, even with the 20% discount we were all very surprised with how reasonable the meal had been – so much so that some of the group headed off to a nearby pub to carry on the evening. The rest of us all made promises to get together again soon and headed off with happy smiles and full bellies. Kin definitely lived up to its hype.

If you want to meet Sarah at a future dinner? Why not connect with her on TableCrowd here.

Alternatively, if you fancy joining one of our Friday night TableCrowd dinners you have  the choice of either dinner with:

Caitlin - I know a great little Italian place! at Sartori restaurant, or

Anna - Dinner & Drinks at Cape Town Fish Market. 

Love love love turning Central Working (at Google Campus) into an after-hours restaurant for TableCrowd startup dinners. After a day packed to the seams with developers, startups and entrepreneurs beavering away, using every bit of available space (and power socket), we turn things on their head as our members join us for networking and dinner.

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We had a great line up of guests last night. TableCrowd were joined by:

Richard Brownsdon from Inspiring Adventures who uses his connections in social enterprise, ecotourism and travel to create inspiring adventures for people in the UK and beyond. Richard shared his story with us in a great after-dinner talk.

Raphaelle Heaf, founder of Art Spotter finally made it along to a dinner! She shared some of her experiences of incubators with the group.

Sean Obedih, from Founders Hive, a support network for startups. Sean runs his own monthly dinners on TableCrowd to tie in with the MVP demo days he hosts for Founders Hive.

> The founders of Guideress, wife and husband team, Erin and Alan Hale, who are working on a travel startup which provides tailored advice for visitors to our capital.

Thomas Brimblecombe of Classic Grand Tours, a tour operator, specialising in driving tours to the finest historic races and classic events worldwide.

> Felipe Zalamea of Sumak Sustainable Travel, a social enterprise specialising in sustainable tailored trips to Latin America.

Brenna Holeman, travel blogger at This Battered Suitcase and community manager at Expedia.

> Kate Andrews at Loco2, who’s simplifying travelling in Europe by train.

Julia Pond at Gogobot, a social network for travellers. Earlier in the year, Gogobot and TableCrowd teamed up on a big social dinner for our respective members. Hopefully, to be repeated.

> Alec Dent at Bla Bla Car, a car sharing network connecting drivers and their empty car seats, with passengers.

Prashant Lagisetti, whose startup is Localoids.com, which connects travellers with locals.

In addition, we were joined by a developer in the travel space, a currency swap startup (who crowd sourced a name around the table!) and someone with an idea for tailored city escapes. With apologies from OneFineStay who couldn’t make it.

The evening started with welcome drinks before we sat for a delicious dinner courtesy of Central Working. After we had all dined, we had round-the-table introductions for everyone to introduce themselves and their business, before Richard Brownsdon finished off the evening with a great after dinner talk and Q&A.

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Thank you to everyone that joined our travel startups dinner and made it a memorable and valuable evening.

Thank you to artwork sponsors, nerv, a full service digital agency that supports our #MeetandEat dinners.

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Next up, Ed Tech Startups “Meet and Eat” on 10th December. Please tell your buddies in that space!

The ‘side’ in the blog title refers to my main meal choice – a substantially sized piece of sirloin steak. Going on the theme of the evening and in comparison to my fellow diners, it was more like a side dish.

After contemplating most of last week whether I should attempt the 1kg of steak challenge with the Man V Food crowd, my last minute decision to join the dinner in Waterloo did not disappoint – my bicycle on the other hand did. Cycling from East London to West on my 1980’s vintage Peugeot racer, the pedal snapped off. So, cycling from East London to West on my 1980’s vintage ‘one pedaled’ Peugeot racer, I managed to fight through the pain of my right leg to find Gillrays Steakhouse restaurant, located in the very grand Marriott Hotel on the South Bank.

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I was greeted at the bar in the hotel by two of the diners Kim and Susie. It was great to see Kim again after our last, failed quest to tackle the Devastator burger at Red Dog Saloon. It was very nice to meet TableCrowd first timer Susie who was over from New York on a work placement in London for three years. We got talking and found our mutual liking for cycling (with two pedals) and winter sports snowboarding and skiing. A few moments later Dominic joined us at the bar, all the way from Singapore and in London for a short period, also at his first TableCrowd dinner, to make up our table of four.

Taking our seats at the table we realised what a great location the restaurant was in. The restaurant was close to the river, over shadowed by Big Ben and the millennium wheel.

gilrays view

The staff obviously didn’t realise one of the reasons why we were there, as they brought out complimentary Yorkshire puddings stuffed with cheese. Not the most helpful of foods to digest when you’re on a mission to eat 1KG of butter flied prime rib steak.

gilrays yorkies

I was only the one not to order the 1KG of steak, mainly because of its price tag, that’s my excuse anyway, although I was close to changing my mind when Susie, who half my size, also decided to order the ‘Bulls Head.’ Feeling slightly inadequate, ordering my normal sized sirloin, I was however very excited to see what 1KG of beef steak actually looked like on a plate. It was huge. Dominic who spent a few years in South Africa said that steak of this quantity was a common theme in some restaurants in SA and occasionally, you would see even bigger cuts of meat.

gilrays image via tiki chrisphoto by tikichris.com

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photo by standard.co.uk

The overall verdict on the meat was that it was very tasty with the only criticism being, perhaps slightly fatty. However, the table decided that they would eat it again, not immediately after I would hope, especially since two of the plates were nearly clean (minus the bone and fat of course) and one of the steaks was in a doggie bag, ready for lunch the next day. Oh, my sirloin steak was delicious, thanks for asking, cooked perfectly to my medium specification and scoffed down with some delightful triple fried chips. We had a great choice of sauces to choose from as well, ranging from blue cheese sauce to your classic peppercorn sauce.

gilrays sauce

I’d like to finish by saying I had a great evening, conversation flowed and I very much enjoyed the company. The restaurant was most accommodating and relaxing. So if you fancy a more civilized food challenge get yourself to Gillrays for 1KG of steak, you won’t regret it, a great experience and I would highly recommend it.

Now, the most dreaded part of the evening, my 5.2 mile cycle to Victoria park with one pedal and full of food! Good luck.

If you want to take part in the next Man V Food dinner, join the Man V Food crowd here

Date announced for our next “Meet and Eat” at Central Working in Google Campus. TableCrowd Travel Startups “Meet & Eat” is happening on 19th November, 7pm.

It’s a chance for London’s travel startups to get together, network, dine and share experiences & contacts.

Previous dinners in the series have been based around food, fashion, e-commerce, social media & the sharing economy.

It’s dinner for 20 people. If you would like an invite, please get in touch at hello@tablecrowd.com or @tablecrowd.

collage meetandeat blog

Introducing Anna Konieczny, one of our TableCrowd members. See how Anna got on at her latest “Thai Dinner in a Mango Tree” dinner, in her latest blog:

annaThe weather not only has a powerful hold over our moods but it completely changes our appetite as well. Summer- we are drawn to food full of light, fresh citrus flavours and vibrant green salad leaves whereas in autumn, we crave the comfort of slower, warmer food rooted in the earth. .. You can only imagine my excitement when I found out I would be hosting my very first TableCrowd dinner at the award-winning Thai restaurant, Mango Tree in Belgravia.

Getting lost on my way to the venue (I wanted to ensure an early 7pm arrival with a must-have pre-dinner cocktail, obviously), the barmaid from the local bar I stumbled upon replied to my rushed:

”I am so sorry but I am a little lost and need some help of getting to…

(barmaid)”…the Mango Tree, perhaps?”

(me) “How did you guess?”

(barmaid) “All the pretty ladies always go there…”

I knew instantly I must be in for a treat!

***

I walked into the extravagant entrance of the restaurant in a flamboyant style (pure excitement!) to be greeted by three pretty ladies greening at me at the reception, who ushered me to the cosy bar. I went straight for the signature Mango Tree Cocktail; the Thai Lychee Martini. Not recommended for the faint-hearted, it was deliciously sweet with an intended spicy kick to it giving this classic cocktail a fragrant definition. A must-try mix up for any Mango Tree’s newbie.

mango tree<Thai Martini; Wyborowa vodka, Gabriel boudier lychee liqueur, fresh lemon grass, thai red chilli, lychee fruit, fresh lime juice and sugar syrup>

Not surprisingly, with such a vast selection of drinks I needed some help from the experienced bar team who swiftly assisted with any of my cocktail-related inquiries. And there were a few…

While alone, I had some time to fully embrace the minimalistic, cosy decor of Mango Tree; the warm colours of red mixed with plush leather seats, showy floral arrangements and fabulously looking bamboo blinds made me feel exceptionally comfortable in this new surroundings. My deep admiration was soon disturbed by Lesley and Peter, the first guests who both joined me for a pre-dinner drink while we were waiting for everyone else to arrive. Chit-chatting and getting to know each other, we were excitingly sipping variety of other signature cocktails while inhaling the superb fragrance of Thai dishes permeating the air.

The time passed by quickly and soon everyone had arrived, we took our seats by the dining table starring at the never-ending menu. I must admit, for such an indecisive food critic as me, the wide selection of Mango Tree’s dishes was more a hindrance than help! On a plus side, it catered for every imaginable taste what was clearly demonstrated on our dining table. Our diverse group of 6 (4 boys and 3 girls – all newbies to TableCrowd experience) got along very well while embarking on the most interesting conversations; we discussed politics ( and even predicted the next recession!), favourite food and even dived into discussing some of our crazy careers ( mainly that of Peter who went from being an artist/ performer, to journalist and ending as a GP practitioner!). Experiencing the TableCrowd for the very first time, I absolutely loved how easy it was to meet new friends in London who share similar passions and zest for life.

Mango Tree may be a once-in-a-while treat if you watch your budget but the one that will leave you with the tastiest memories of some of the most amazing Thai dishes. Just check out some of our selection for the night:

mango tree platter (assorted appetisers including chicken satay, prawn spring rolls, golden minced chicken purse and thai fish cakes, served with satay peanut sauce, sweet chilli sauce and plum sauce)

  •  A fabulous treat platter for any Thai food lover!

pad thai goong yai (thai rice noodles stir-fried with chinese chives, peanuts, bean curd and bean sprouts in a special homemade sauce, served topped with an egg net and king prawns)

mango treeMy personal favourite, nothing beats a good pad thai and the one from Mango Tree not only tasted divine, it was presented in the most sophisticated style.

gaeng phed ped yang pon la mai (red curry with roasted duck, grape, pineapple and cherry tomatoes, served in a pineapple bowl)

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  •  Oh dear me…just look at this. Doesn’t it just simple scream ”order me now!!??”. Soft and perfectly spiced, Peter wasn’t disappointed with the choice of his main course that made us all green with envy (he let us tried some though!).

And for those with even half of a sweet tooth…..I present to you the homemade ice cream and sorbet, (Graham’s choice..!)…… now, that is the way to end your dinner!

mango treeWe partied away with warm smiles on our faces (I am sure the wine had something to do with it!) and promised to get together again soon, for another sociable meet up from the TableCrowd. New friends- here we come!

mango tree

If you want to meet Anna at a future dinner? Why not connect with her on TableCrowd here.

Alternatively, if you fancy joining one of our weekend TableCrowd dinners you have  the choice of either dinner with:

Kerry on Friday 6th for: Thank God It’s Friday at Bellarina or

Tanya on Saturday 7th for: 3 course Indian tasting menu @ Mint Leaf.

 

 

We have been very busy at TableCrowd HQ – same old! An update on what’s been going on with the project and the team.

I signed up to TechBikers and joined 70+ other techies in cycling from Paris to London. It was 3-day memorable adventure. You can see my full write-up about the experience on Tech City Insider.

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In order to feel like a fully-fledged ‘techie’ for the TechBikers adventure, I finally dabbled in a bit of coding with Makers Academy. It was a ‘build a website in a weekend’ course in aid of TechBiker’s Charity, Room to Read. You can see what I made here, it is without a doubt, an asset to the web.

The Startup Leadership Program started, and from 1000’s we were selected to take part in the 6-month course, which covers all stages of business, with expert speakers at each session, sharing their wisdom. I teamed up with Andres Sanchez of livingindietv.com, to run a session on business pitching, with an experienced panel judging the startups.

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We had 2 “meet and eats” booked in this month at Google Campus. The first we partnered with Eyedea to run an ecommerce dinner, with guest speaker Emma Watkinson from SilkFred and the second, we ran a “Tales from the Trenches” dinner in honour of Social Media Week, with Ruth Barnett (SwiftKey), Zoe Arch (CraftCandy) and WenLin Soh (Edible Experiences) sharing their experiences. Thanks to sponsors Taylor Wessing and nerv for their continued support.

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London law firm Chadbourne invited us to join their table for the annual AIM markets awards, a black-tie sit down dinner for 1,200 people at Old Billingsgate. Rob Bryant was the very entertaining entertainment! If you think the male/female ratio for women in tech is skewed, this took it to another level.

We headed over Reuters in Canary Wharf bright and early to take part in “Reuters on the Road”, an online video series filmed and produced by Reuters to follow London startups. The interview takes place in a black cab as it loops Canary Wharf. The edit should be out soon.

If you haven’t joined us for dinner yet, why not come and along and try out TableCrowd. Have a look at upcoming dinners here.

Introducing Pilar Carrera, one of our TableCrowd members. See how Pilar got on at her latest “Dinner, Live Cuban Music and Mojitossssss” dinner in her latest blog:

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“When I first moved to London six months ago I shared a flat in Soho, very close to Floridita. I always passed by the door and even ventured in for a dance once. I never realised they served food, so I was eager to try.

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I was very pleased to find a smiley and efficient receptionist who, when I arrived, took my coat and led me to our reserved table avoiding the high possibility of me getting lost. She took me downstairs through some fancy spiral stairs and got me to the second, and luckily last, reception. The first thing that grabbed my attention was the decoration of the place. I was fascinated by the neon lights and sparkling curtains, it was as if we were in an 80′s wedding ball, but with different people. I was hypnotized by the fantastic live Cuban music which was the background for the whole duration of the dinner.

Maria was already sitting at the table when I arrived, waiting with the biggest smile ever. We quickly started talking and soon the other members, Jeannete, Lola and James joined. We easily clicked and started talking and laughing as if we had known each other for a long time. As much as we wanted to keep on talking with our new friends from the night, we were told that we only had two hours on the table so we decided to concentrate on our orders.

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There was a set menu which included 3 courses, live music & a Mojito for £29.50 (excluding service charge). It seemed to us like a good deal, otherwise if we were ordering from the menu, prices were expensive and we would have been charged an extra seven pounds for the music. So everyone went for the set menu, which included a choice of four courses in the starters, mains and desserts. After ten minutes we agreed that we did not fancy any of the starters, so as a responsible table host I made a deal with the waiter to substitute the starter for a side dish. But side dishes were even less attractive, it was mainly chips or spicy rice, so we returned to the original idea.

I took the plunge by ordering a starter: an avocado and palm heart salad with citrus and palm heart. The dishes came nicely decorated and the salad was delicious. Sadly, I was not so fortunate with the second dish; pork ribs with chutney and chips.

pilar4The pork dish was very well presented, but the taste did not mirror it’s appearance. It was an illusion. It was really tough, hard to cut with a knife and had most likely been dead a long time. The chips on the side had this oily flavour and texture that made you think they were cooked more or less when the pig was killed! Something similar happened with the fish that James had ordered. James found the salmon to be quite tough and lacking in flavour. Considering the short time they took to serve it, it was clear that it was not at all fresh.

The last course of our set menu arrived and I had ordered the sorbet. I was waiting for some kind of champagne – containing digestive drink but found myself in front of two ice balls which were overly sweet and tasted of food colouring.

Finally the mojitos came along. By then I had become slightly cautious as to what was about to arrive, so I took a tentative sip. Yes, they were good. Thank god. I guess we all forgot about the mediocre meal we had just had. Everything looks different when you are listening to good music in front of a nice mojito.

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If you decide to try Floridita, then I highly recommend the Mojito and live Cuban music.”

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If you want to meet Pilar at a future dinner? Why not connect with her on TableCrowd here.

Alternatively, if you fancy joining our next TableCrowd dinner, join Kerry Chu for dinner at a “charmingly unique Italian restaurant in the heart of Fitzrovia: Thank God It’s Friday! Dinner – 50% off food bill!