Archives for category: Restaurants

Check out Anna‘s second blog and how she got on at “Dinner & Drinks at Cape Town Fish Market!

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Despite lacking any evident sentiment for home pets (unless they are super cuddly or adventurously lively such as myself) my former flat mate decided one day on getting an extra attraction to fill an empty space in our expansive living room…

The next day, it arrived.

A gigantic water tank full of some of the most colourful fish I had ever seen. That was it. I ended up glued to the glass most evenings making up some of the weirdest names for my new non-cuddly friends (Whiskey, Jenny, Fatty?), whilst staring at those cute little creatures, swimming blissfully in their domestic idea of an ocean…
As my newly acquired hobby found a permanent spot in my life, the gap needed filling when I moved out from my old apartment. I had no choice but to abandon my new hobby that had kept me entertained for so many weeks. Fear not as I recently brought it back into my life!

Three words: Cape Town Fish Market.

Call me sentimental, but the dinner at this recently refurbished modern establishment, just off Oxford Street, was a true place to savour. Coupled with the brilliant company of some fresh faces from the TableCrowd community (six boys to two girls this time = good ratio for the prettier side of the table!) made it for a truly special evening. We tried a fabulous selection of the seafood’s finest, consumed with the accompaniment of some light and crispy Chardonnay (and a few colourful cocktails) as well as engaging conversations fuelled with laughs and jokes. I could not hide from my secret fish admiration, of course. You will get hooked as well – I promise.

What we ate:

<Grilled Scallops rubbed with garlic and topped with crispy breadcrumb>

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<Vlad ordered the Seafood Bisque; spicy soup with croutons, spiced mayonnaise and Gruyère>

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< …little bit of everything; Kalk Bay Platter for 2>

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And drinks we enjoyed:

<Cape Town Blush>

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There is no way to escape the beauty of the tropical fish tank and the fish counter with all sorts on display. Seafood lovers; new to London – you have just found your dining paradise!

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And my new little friend!

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I realised that one main thing that brought us all together that evening was our boundless passion for good-quality food and a desire to meet new people in London, willing to embark on some adventure-ridden explorations. That is what makes the TableCrowd experience the one to remember and engage in. Some of the people I met have already become very good friends and hearing about many exciting hobbies they had been sharing outside the TableCrowd had truly cemented my belief that nobody needs to feel lonely in London, ever. And who knows if the person you meet may not become the one who will be sharing your hobbies with you, even as wackiest as fish admiration!

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PS: Taking about the pets and to replace my lost-loved aquarium…. I am currently considering adopting a chicken!

Purely for the eggs.

For more upcoming new to London dinners. Be sure to join the crowd here.

dishoom

I joined friends for dinner at Dishoom on Boundary Street in Shoreditch, a “Bombay café in London”. You can book for groups under 6, so we rocked up at around 7pm with a few groups ahead of us in the queue, but in the 10 minutes it took for us to make it through the door, the queue behind us had formed out the street. Impeccable timing. Once in, the wait at the bar was still around an hour, but the cocktail (or mocktail in my case) list was good and the smells wafting into the bar area kept us excited.

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Our waitress explained how to order. The menu is divided up into small plates, grill, biryani, ruby murray, bread and rice, naan and the odd special dropped in too. The best way to order is tapas style, a few dishes from each section. For our group of 4, she suggested around 10-14 plates.

dishoom1Amongst other dishes, we ordered the calamari, spicy lamb chops, house black dahl (a Dishoom signature dish) and mahi tikka (fish). We were unanimous (the vegetarian in our number aside) that the lamb chops were the most delicious.

dishoom3image by pheebzeatz.wordpress.com/

I’m no food critic, but it just smelt, tasted and looked authentic. If a Brick Lane curry is your thing, give Dishoom a miss, but if you want an authentic treat that doesn’t leave you feeling stuffed, but leaves you smiling inside, give it a go – but get there early!

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

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)

mango tree

  •  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.

 

 

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:

Pilar1

“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.

pilar2

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.

pilar3

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.

pilar4

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

pilar2

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!

 

Introducing Kat, one of our members going to her TableCrowd first dinner. Read on to find out how it was for her…

Naturally, as a novice I was always going to be nervous about my first ‘TableCrowd’ experience… meeting a group of complete strangers when you’re new to town can be daunting! Luckily for me, any nervousness disappeared as I entered Boulevard Brasserie, a charming French restaurant nestled in the heart of Covent Garden. Welcomed by the delightful waiting staff, I was shown to my table and met my fellow diners, who immediately put me at ease with their warmth and openness.

After some initial chit-chat, the restaurant’s buzzing atmosphere and prospect of an evening full of good food, wine, and company meant we all relaxed and really started to enjoy the evening. Our waiter had mastered a perfect mix of attentiveness and space, and was very helpful when it came to picking out a wine. Unfortunately my northern upbringing means I know little or nothing about vino; not a problem though, as Christiane and Patrick (the French and Italian diners amongst us) were adamant we try a little number from either of their native countries. A little help from the charming waiter meant the wine – as well as the conversion – was flowing in no time.

As the food arrived (sea bass with mangetout and pesto… beautifully prepared and presented with true French style!), we were never short of things to talk about, and the great mix of people meant there were plenty of stories and experiences to share. Whether we were discussing the place of social media within the 21st century, or the Hungarian way of drinking tequila (it’s taken with paprika and mandarin, apparently; Suzanne was quick to mention that this tastes disgusting! You’ve been warned… stick to lime and salt), we were never lost for words. Most surprisingly, common ground was found in our mutual love of Pimp My Ride (yes, that high quality MTV show where rapper Xzibit gives old cars an extreme make over! What’s not to love?!)

The highlight of the evening had to be when Jay, our TableCrowd veteran, made us stand up in the middle of the restaurant to play ‘Heads or Tales’, a fairly energetic game that involves putting your hands on your head or your hips, then flicking a coin to knock out players. If you pick incorrectly, you’re out of the running – trust me, it’s a ruthless elimination process! With the prospect of chocolate up for grabs however, the ladies around the table were very keen to give this a go… and when chocolate’s involved, it gets very competitive! Luckily Christiane, Suzanne and I won some delightful Halloween-themed chocolate, and Jay even provided a gift for our loser in the form of a ‘Fiendish Fancy’… although Halloween may be over a month away, we were all thrilled with Jay’s kindness.

As the night came to an end, we enjoyed a final limoncello nightcap, said fond goodbyes and promised to meet again soon. I was overwhelmed with contentment as we went our separate ways, reminiscing about the evening’s more entertaining moments and the lovely people I had met. Great ambience, friendly waiting staff, and lovely food were a bonus, but it was the people that made the night truly enjoyable. Let’s face it, tasty food, good wine and excellent company is a winning combination any day of the week!

Want to meet Kat at a future dinner? Why not connect with her on TableCrowd here.

I live just around the corner from Dukes Brew & Que in De Beauvoir, Hackney. Having walked by this place (leaving a wide berth) 100’s of times when it was in its former state as a local and pretty rough looking boozer, I was surprised to see it so quickly reformed as an gastropub, with every table packed pretty much from day one. There’s a lively buzzy atmosphere with friendly helpful staff.

I’ve been in for breakfast too, but my most recent visit was for dinner – American cuisine, BBQ and ribs. This time, I didn’t over order, but I did order the same – the beef rib. Yep, ‘rib’ singular, but there is no shortage quantity. The lesson I learnt first time around, when I also ordered sliders and chips. My comrade ordered 2 pork ribs and we shared a side of chicken wings in a medium hot tangy sauce. We both voted the beef rib over the pork – way less fatty. Disappointingly (not what my picture suggests), it was not as good as on previous visits. The beef rib was way less tender and I actually preferred the chicken wings to the rib this time round. Hopefully a one-off dip, I’ll be heading back again for sure.

They have a couple of walk-in tables but it’s best to book ahead as it gets very busy! There’s a small bar area to meet or whilst waiting for your table as well as a good number of seats outside. Oh, and it ain’t cheap. A pear cider set me back a fiver at the bar and my beef rib was just shy of £22.

Fancy trying out? We’re planning a dinner there soon with our Man vs Food Crowd.

I took the olds for lunch at Fifteen in East London a few years back so thought I’d check out it’s little sister / big brother in Watergate Bay, Cornwall. This is one of my favourite spots in the UK, photos included to show why, which is a good start to the experiences. It’s a tiny bay, with everything you need to eat, drink, sleep and surf within 100m.

After a full explanation from our efficient and friendly waitress, we opted for the 5 course taster menu. There was also a 7 course menu for those with a bigger belly than mine. You could choose to have each course paired with a different wine, but we opted for a bottle of Brokenwood Cricket Pitch. Two factors influenced this decision. I was with an ex-professional cricketer and I like sauvignon blanc. A light wine, very easy to knock back (that’s as technical as my wine descriptions get).

Olives and bread were a pre first course course. First up was ‘Newlina’s ricotta stuffed zucchini flowers’. Otherwise known as, deep fried courgette stuffed with ricotta. A small, tasty bite but nothing to write home about.

The next course was a choice of venison carpaccio or prosciutto with melon and hazelnuts. We ordered one of each. The carpaccio was fresh, clean and delicate with a peppery edge from the rocket. The prosciutto was delicious and the melon fresh and juicy (Sicilian apparently). A great start. Both were good, but my vote went to the prosciutto.

Next up was raviolo of lobster or potato gnocchi. Again we ordered both and shared. This time the winner was the gnocchi, a surprising victor, we had assumed the locally sourced lobster would romp home, but it was just a little rich for us.

The forth course was either lamb loin or crispy seabass fillet. If you had opted for the 7 course menu, you would have been served both! Despite seabass being one of my favourite ever fishies, the lamb just trumped it. Melt in your mouth succulent slices of pink Bre Pen Farm lamb loin with lentils, wild mushroom and lardo. Delicious.

Last course (well apart from the after dinner chocolates), was either a cheese board or a super rich flourless dark chocolate torta with cherries. I love a cheese board and this one was no exception but didn’t find any of the cheeses that distinct in flavor or particularly strong, I hoped one of the four would have been. The torta won this final battle.

Being more a regular at canteens and BYO restaurants in East London, a dinner that lasted the whole evening was novel. A memorable and thoroughly enjoyable evening. Due to the location, an extra bonus for me was that you could rock up with wet hair, shorts, flip flops and no make-up and not feel out of place! Beautiful sunset too!

Why not check out Fifteen in East London with TableCrowd on 26th September hosted by Jay of our Fine, Wine and Dine crowd? Details here.

Chico Bandito on Luke Street is fast becoming the weekly home of The Startup Engine. Why? I’m a fan of the large square table that allows one conversation even when there are 10 diners, the jugs of cocktails and the tasty-not-too-expensive food. And, tonight our waitress treated us to tequila shots on the house, which received varying receptions from diners considering it was a Tuesday night, but a lovely touch that made us feel special.

Iggy Hammick joined us again. Iggy is a freelance web designer and is also the London organiser of Digital Dumbo. It was good to hear about his upcoming event on 22nd August at Open Kitchen, 40 Hoxton Street. They have partnered with the Tech City Apprentice Scheme, which helps connect young people in East London with top local tech businesses. Date saved! Details here:

It was lovely to see Rachel Cheal back again for her second TableCrowd dinner. Rachel is founder of The Growth Lab, a new kind of financial consultancy, which gives small and medium sized businesses the strategic and financial foundations they need to grow. She uses her wealth of experience to work closely with businesses to provide the CFO services they need, but can’t necessarily have in-house in their earlier years.

Oli Ashness joined his first dinner and came bearing gifts! His startup, SimplyCook provides by-post recipe kits to help people cook great food at home in minutes. They provide the taste elements and you add the fresh ingredients. I have the Cajun chicken kit ready for the weekend. I’ll report back!

Jonathon Lea was back again after many many months. We first met at an Escape The City dinner, when he was days away from starting The Jonathan Lea Network, an international business content platform and community. He continues to provide legal services to clients whilst also providing a wealth of content on not only law, but general business, finance, marketing and political information and commentary. I’m looking forward to Jonathon hosting a dinner for The Startup Engine in the next few months and sharing some of his knowledge!

A pleasure to meet first timer, Ripul Agarwal, who’s working hard on his startup, S(u)ave, which is due to launch later this year. It is a tool for the education sector that will enable the collation of research content in a simple yet effective manner. Looking forward to finding out more and seeing it live!

As always, a really interesting evening and pleasure to have dinner with such a great bunch of entrepreneurs and founders.

Next week’s social dining experience is in partnership with Taylor Wessing and we will be dining with a tax associate who can give us the low down on all things tax including EIS & SEIS. You can get involved here.

 

You may have heard that Time Out has launched a loyalty card for their community. Cardholders can now enjoy exclusive access to discounts and special offers across London.

One of the benefits of the card will be exclusive networking for cardholders in a private “Crowd” on TableCrowd. Time Out and TableCrowd will be taking cardholders on a tour of London top 50 restaurants, as determined by Time Out.

Not only will they be treated to delicious food from London hot spots like The Hawksmoor, Hakassan & Fino, they will also be meeting other cardholders and growing their social circles – in true TableCrowd style.

We’re excited!

So how do you get involved in social dining with TableCrowd & Time Out? You need to be a cardholder to join the Crowd and the Tables. You can get your card here. Then all you do it book onto one of the upcoming Tables, with more dates to be released soon.

Click the images below to check out what’s coming up:

Watch this space for announcements of other partnerships that are simmering along nicely at TableCrowd HQ.