Category Archives: drink
If one thing pulls this blog out of hibernation it’s #LCW
- Shaker & Co Vodka Masterclass – free but open to wristband holders only, this event takes you through how best to use Zubrowska. If you’re into that sort of thing. Book via www.shakerandcomany.co.uk
- Tom’s Kitchen Gin Masterclass – they’ll be offering a peach negroni for the cocktail tour, but the masterclass, which includes tastings from The London Distillery, is free, even to those without wristbands: http://www.tomskitchen.co.uk/news/celebrate-london-cocktail-week-at-our-bar-in-toms-kitchen-canary-wharf
- Buffalo Trace Masterclass, various locations – Buffalo Trace’s pop-up has been a favourite of past LCWs and this year they are springing up all over London with secret tastings, dinners, and masterclases. Over three days, they are also offering free tastings across the city. Just sign up here: http://www.buffalotrace.co.uk/buffalo-trace-masterclasses/
Unexpectedly, I have obtained a lot for not very much this month. Rather than bore you with several overly-adjectivised posts, here is a brief run-down of my swag:
24th April – two free tickets to Chivas Regal Open Row
- Won via a Facebook competition, tickets (RRP £15) included two free cocktails, a tour of Savile Row’s dressmaking rooms, historic collections, cocktail masterclasses (albeit for a raspberry mule). My highlight was a tasting of Chivas Regal’s collection of blended malts – 12, 18, and 25yrs. The 18 was my favourite; smooth enough to hold in the mouth, yet intense enough to be interesting.
30th May – Mezcal tastings and supersized cocktails at El Nivel
- Obtained by sitting at the bar and criticising other establishments. Full review here.
1st May – Pulled Pork and Burned Bits at Bodeans, Balham
- Thanks to being hawk-eyed and finding a 20% voucher prior to the branch’s opening. Pulled pork is no longer a new phenomenon, and Bodeans is already one of the cheaper eateries with a good reputation, but the glee of finding something reasonable and not overly “young professional” (I mean, it’s basically Tooting) was welcome. Pitfall: Their drinks are very good, so it’s easy to accidentally spend £40 on them while aiming for a cheap night out.
2nd May – Free cocktail at Coco Momo, Marylebone
- Through being a member of their mailing list and taking advantage of a “Free cocktails due to the tube strike” offer”. Their Coco Berry Julep was remarkably strong (tbh the whiskey should have been stirred in rather than poured over), which was a pleasant surprise when compared to the watered-down offerings you get at London Cocktail Week.
10th May – free brunch for two at Jackson & Rye
- Won through a twitter competition. Online reviews for this place were mixed but our experience was nothing but flawless. The offer entitles you to £40 worth of food, and we had the Angler’s breakfast, Avocado Benedict, Pancakes, two rounds of coffees and health juices with more than £7 to spare. Our waiter, an attentive but not intrusive francophone, made the whole experience incredibly pleasant.
17th May – Free champagne and snacks at Rivea, Bulgari Hotels & Residences, Knightsbridge
- Found via a newsletter. Inspired by the French and Italian seafront, Rivea offers tapas style small plates with a largely seafood and nut base. Samples of what we ate are below. While the recommendation is to have 4-5 plates, we were full with 2-3 (including our free tasting of the Rivea salad – similar to a nicoise) but couldn’t help trying the Thin gianduja palet (a light and satisfying chocolate and hazelnut praline) for dessert alongside a couple of cocktails (The Conqueror and Cherry and Pistachio Bellini, pictured). Being of seaside heritage, we were impressed by the tenderness and flavours of the octopus, red mullet, and sea bream dishes. The bill came to £83 including service despite our freebies, but given that this is an Alain Ducasse restaurant, the damage could have been a lot worse.
Elsewhere this month:
City Social – Sincerely beautiful view of London, with a very classic black and gold decor (even the toilets have floor to ceiling windows with 30s style beauty stations). The bartenders know their stuff, even when ordering off menu. However, I fear its location will cause it to degrade over time due to the prevailing clientele. Get in to try the goats cheese churros before this happens!
Q Grill – We ordered unconventionally here, choosing one of every starter with a pair of cocktails. Everything from the asparagus tips to the steak tartare was moreish. Despite eating with abandon, we managed to stay low carb (diet points) and come away with a bill – after drinks and service – for £35 each.
The Lost Angel Battersea – Fantastic roasts and Proper Cocktails for a fiver, Sundays here are fast becoming a favourite
Grain Store – From the people that brought you the irreplaceable Zetter Townhouse, it’s refreshing to see a menu that cares as much about its vegetarian clientele than the rest. The cocktails are as adventurous as at ZTH (mustard martini and green tomato margarita) but the service can either over or underwhelm
The Black Heart – Metal music and really well made Old Fashioneds in a laid-back bar…in Camden, unfortunately.
The only spirit that has a tendency to turn my stomach is tequila. For years I have assumed that involuntarily, outside of a margarita, if I drink tequila I will meet a messy end. However, after experiencing the tequila con verdura at Casita bar’s charms to my mouth and stomach (it’s a shot, no less!), I somewhat reluctantly joined The Hoodooist for the opening of El Nivel, a new mescaleria venue from the cheap and cheerful CafePacifico/LaPerla franchise.
On the second day of opening, we were in good company. The bar’s owner was there along with the movers and shakers from nearby bars (some of whom we could forgive for choosing this place over their own terrible establishments) and some of the best bartenders in town. Indeed, nearby places such as Megaro Bar and NOLA had donated bottles to the opening, so this was certainly the bartender’s bar.
But the Hoodoo and I never go out to socialise, we go to drink. First on the menu were the Mezcal fix and Fallen Angel.
QuiQuiRiQui mezcal, roasted pineapple syrup, fresh lime, Cynar and saltwater spray.
Gran Centenario Añejo, Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth, Cynar. A heavenly twist on the Sweet Manhattan.
Pineapple balanced the smokiness of the Mezcal Fix, with saltwater adding an interesting aftertaste to Cynar’s of-the-moment savoury aroma. As for the Fallen Angel? As someone who dislikes tequila but adores Manhattans, this was a delightfully deceptive drink.
Elsewhere on the menu, the most tentative experimenters in spirits from this part of the world may want to try the citrus-based Siesta – long enough to not be dangerous but with flavours that enhance the delicacy of tequila, and the Horchata, a boozy version of a traditional Mexican (and somewhere in my archives tells me Mauritian) beverage.
Sit at the bar, and if you prove you know your stuff the bartender may even give you an ad-hoc Mezcal tasting on the house. We hear spirit flights are being planned for the future, and will be returning to learn more about this long-neglected spirit.
I am bored. Let’s put things in a glass.
I got the Bufala Negra off a website because I wanted to DIY with balsalmic. It’s OK, but a bit flat for all the ingredients. I used Buffalo Trace and dry basil – perhaps it would taste different if I used fresh basil and a drier whiskey (although this drink was dry enough). I’d like to try a version with tomato juice instead of ginger ale and perhaps a Pisco base.
The Transmetropolitan is my own thing inspired by The Queer Alternative‘s upcoming event Liberté! Egalité! Cabaret!. I’ve tried to make a stereotypically gendered drink queer and add an extra element to make this less binary. Sazerac Rye + Cointreau + Cranberry Juice + celery bitters. It works very well, evoking both drinks simultaneously. You only need one dash of celery bitters, else it becomes too overpowering, but it adds an extra dimension. Still, I should have something in my cupboard to bring the mystery third element in better. Ginger liqueur? Something spicy? Something sweet? Port reduction?
I need a bigger bar.
Until recently Holborn had been something of a non-place between Covent Garden and Bloomsbury; well connected, but not really a destination. Puzzling, as it has indie theatres, a burgeoning academic and media population, and served as the starting point for new fast-food outlets such as Kimchee. The Rosewood Hotel, newly opened, is set to change all of that.
It features three recreational spaces (so far), each with their own unique edge, each offering something different without any room feeling like a second/third fiddle to the others.
+ seamless service, from the door staff, to the very knowledgeable bar staff, to the self-deprecating waiters
+ a varied and reasonably priced menu. Does one of your party want a steak, while the other wants an antipasti platter, and another wants a cake and coffee? No problem! The house red is gluggable yet not forgettable (a herault)
+ the cocktail list is short, but while sitting at the bar waiting for my friend, I got chatting to the bar staff and it quickly became clear that they were confident enough to create anything off-menu to spec. Which at £8-10 a drink is worth the risk.
– the selection for vegetarians is slim; a salad, a soup, a tart, and a risotto. Not terribly inspiring.
Scarfes Bar (controversial thusfar among the bigger reviewers)
+ Beautiful surroundings, reminiscent of The Zetter Townhouse’s older, more conservative brother
+ Attentive francophone staff with a sense of humour, very personal service
– the quality: price ratio of the drinks is a bit disappointing having come from HDR. The menu is more adventurous but about 30% more, and the two drinks we had were long and fluffy, but not really *interesting*.
All in all, perhaps best suited for a coffee date, or tapping away at your laptop/studies in front of the open fire.
+ Slightly more exotic offering cuisine-wise, with a mediterranean/organic menu
+ More classic/stylish lounge feel compared to the other spaces, with private dining and kitchen areas.
+ Afternoon tea (which we didn’t try) is £39 a head with unlimited refills – worth a punt, depending on their offering
+ The cocktail menu is exclusively classics which, judinging by the brands on show, purport to be excellent value for money.
– Does it offer the wow factor that would make one want to travel to Holborn? I think a visit in the summer, when the adjacent terrace will be open, will make that decision.
I’m not entirely sure I want you to know about this place.
It’s a high-quality, affordable place in Mayfar (pro). It’s in a Marriot Hotel with direct access to the foyer (con). If you’re in the right place it can feel timeless and magical with chrome, leather, and well-dressed internationals on dates and business lunches, the wrong table and you feel like you’re in a corridor drinking with tourists. The drinks are classics, forgotten classics, and twists; enough to keep the menu interesting and wonder what certain flavours will be created, not so much that you’ll get disappointed by flash overcreativity.
It’s a slight shame that the plain black entry door now has a huge projection with the bar’s logo over it, but it’s not done in a way that detracts from the elegance within. Service was unobtrusive and friendly, though we did feel sorry for the girl who had to leap up a flight of stairs to answer the door.
The bar snacks are pricey, but nuts/crisps are free.
+1 for a free sample drink on arrival.
I had been a semi-regular visitor to The Mandeville Hotel’s cocktail bar, due to its proximity to my workplace. It boasts about being A Real Gentleman’s Hotel with class, elegance, and an implied musk of Traditional Man. My hopes were high for the Reform Social and Grill afternoon tea, having previously tasted their delicious sliders and herby cocktails, which weren’t soured by the presence of bum-bag wearing, Primark-carrying clientele (it is in a hotel, after all)
In-line with their usual teas, their festive offering came with “vintage” and “gentleman’s” options, and began with a “winter fruit punch” cocktail. The vintage tea was your usual fare, nothing flash like at the Sanderson or generous like at the Haymarket, but a good, traditional tea with sarnies, scones, and mini cakes. I’m told the savouries that came with the gentleman’s tea (mini sausage rolls, pies, and burgers) were excellent.
However, it seems that the winter fruit punch was nothing more than a mulled wine, consisting of neither fruit nor the punch-requirement of ingredients – and it was served in tumblers. Service, unfortunately, coloured the whole evening when at 3.01pm (our reservation was at 3pm) we were asked to order as “our party was late”, and when we indicated that our remaining guest had just left the tube station, our drinks were brought to us regardless. Waiters continued to be slow and sloppy, serving the wrong items to the wrong people and balking at the full *discretionary* service charge not being paid. What could have been a pleasant and fairly priced tea turned into a bit of a shambles, and due to the high expectations previously laid on, meant that the afternoon was something of a disappointment.
It should be noted that on reading our review The Reform Social and Grill offered us a free cocktail, but unfortunately as they took a week to reply to our booking, we had already made other plans when the proposed date had arrived.