Gold Rush

IMG_1849[1]Channelling my inner Yosemite Sam isn’t something I tend to do very often.  Yet last Friday night I found myself  “yee haw”-ing to my heart’s content, whilst downing shots of buffalo juice.  This was not some marathon session of Looney Tunes, however.  It was Gold Rush.

Gold Rush is the latest pop up from Django Bango.  Sounding like a cross between a Tarantino film and a 90’s dance tune, the team have previously held successful events such as Wild West Town in Shoreditch earlier this year.  Gold Rush sticks to the Wild West theme; this time transforming a steel yard in Vauxhall into a gold mine worthy of the Klondike.  A cast of cowboys and saloon lovelies, including hostess Miss Trixy Dixy, are on hand to welcome all of us potential prospectors.  However, it’s not just all eating, drinking, and carousing in this here gold mine.  We were also going to be doing a spot of mining ourselves.  Some pesky varmint had stolen the gold and stashed it around the mine.  Including in the food!  Anyone who finds any gold will win a mystery prize so, with five courses on the menu, it was time to get digging.

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The set dinner commenced with muffnuts.  Muffnuts sound vaguely naughty – and that’s exactly what they were.  I had to keep reminding myself that there were another four courses to come, otherwise I would have eaten far more than my fair share of these buttermilk muffins filled with pulled pork and covered with melted Monterey Jack.  Course number two arrived in the form of a washing line with dinky metal pails dangling from it.  These contained crocodile tempura bites, and were accompanied by a sauce boat of salsa verde.  The crocodile was a bit on the chewy side, sadly, and the salsa verde was overly oily.  All was forgiven, however, when the next course of BBQ beef short ribs was served.  These had clearly been in the slow cooker for hours and the meat fell apart with a gentle prod of the fork.  The addition of a hefty dollop of BBQ sauce and slaw made sure that this dish ticked all the boxes.  I’ve always been a sucker for American comfort food and this was definitely doing it for me.

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Three courses in and still no sign of any gold!!!!  Was I going to end up empty handed, albeit full bellied?  The arrival of course number 4, a cast iron pot containing smokey sausage gumbo, certainly guaranteed the latter.  I was beginning to flag by this stage in the proceedings, but the gumbo still went down a treat and the inclusion of a jambalaya “arancini” provided an interesting nod to fusion food.  The feast then concluded with a decadent slab of Rocky Road.  This was perhaps a little on the heavy side after four other fairly rich courses but who cares?  I had already fully surrendered myself to the inevitable food coma and it tasted utterly delicious.  And then….my spoon clanged against something suspiciously hard.  There, glinting out of the chocolatey darkness, was a shiny nugget of gold.  Yee haw!!!!!!

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As if all the food, gold and general mine-y fun isn’t enough, there is live music throughout the night and a drinks menu that is more comprehensive than you’ll find in your average saloon.  The cocktails are particularly good (my personal fave was the MineyMcMineFace – a potent brew made up of mezcal, fresh lime juice and hibiscus syrup).  Giving the event a shout out on social media can also net you a shot of the mysterious buffalo juice, which does taste a lot better than it sounds.  So dig out your stetson, pack your pick axe and stake your claim on this hugely entertaining night out.  The London Gold Rush has begun.

Gold Rush is on every Friday and Saturday until October.  Tickets cost £35.
(http://www.djangobango-goldrush.com/)
Use the discount code ‘goldenprosecco” when booking, for a free glass of prosecco upon arrival on the 24th and 25th June.

I would like to thank the team at Django Bango for inviting me to join them at Gold Rush but all opinions are, as ever, my own.

Syrian Supper Club – Part 2

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A little while ago I wrote about the Syrian Supper Club and the Hands Up Foundation; a group of young people who were motivated to start a pop-up event aimed at raising money for those affected by the crisis in Syria.  Well, the sound of all that Middle Eastern food made me really hungry so I decided to put my money where my mouth is and check out one of their supper clubs.

Supper clubs are very much on trend at the moment, but I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I had never been to one before.  There are so many to choose from, where do you even start?  So I had no idea what to expect when I arrived at the E5 Bakehouse in London Fields, clutching my bottle of red wine.  The first thing I noticed was the incredible smell coming from the kitchen.  It was the scent of spice, warmth and the exotic.  The second things were the delicious welcome cocktail and the array of mezze dishes dotted around the room.  Waves of these plates were brought out to us and included shwander (beetroot dip), the softest homemade Turkoman flatbreads, little filo pies made with leek and halloumi, and a spiced pistachio soup.

After a short introductory talk about the Hands Up Foundation and the causes that they support, we headed through the kitchen to the candlelit dining area.  Our main course was mehshi halabi – Aleppo-style potatoes stuffed with beef in a tomato and tamarind sauce, with saffron and barberry rice.  This was what had been creating that intoxicating Middle-Eastern scent.  The beef was minced and formed into meatballs, smothered in a sauce so full of flavour you could tell it had been simmering away all day.  The addition of a yoghurt “raita-style” dressing was a lovely touch that cut through the richness of the tomato sauce.

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Just in case we weren’t already as stuffed as the potatoes, we were then presented with two desserts.  The first was halawiyyat – a meringue roulade with rhubarb, MarmalAid, rose petals and pistachios.  This was a delicious Middle-Eastern twist on a classic dish.  The roulade was supplemented with ma’amoul which are shortbread pastries filled, in this case, with rhubarb, walnuts, cinnamon and orange blossom.  I’m glad there were only enough for one each, as I might have found myself engaging in a feeding frenzy worthy of an entire flock of herring gulls.

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I felt a little apprehensive about attending a supper club alone, but the nature of the event meant that it was easy to chat to people.  And while it all felt very lovely and enjoyable – drinking red wine by candlelight, being served course after course of amazing food – it’s important to remember why we were all there in the first place.  The money raised from the supper clubs goes towards funding medical staff and equipment in Aleppo, as well as projects like a prosthetic limb clinic on the Turkish/Syrian border.  This particular supper club raised a grand total of £1,283.16, every penny of which will go to people who desperately need it.  It’s such an easy way of contributing towards an excellent cause that there’s really no excuse not to go along.

Syrian Supper Clubs are held monthly at E5 Bakehouse and cost £35 (BYOB)
http://www.syriansupperclub.com/

The Little Taperia

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On a grey bank holiday Monday, it’s tempting to spend the whole day watching Netflix in your onesie.  Alternatively, you could pretend that you’re somewhere else entirely, somewhere with good food, good wine and summer vibes.  Tooting may not be the first place that springs to mind, but step over the threshold of The Little Taperia and it’s as if you’ve gone through a wormhole to sunny Spain.

The Little Taperia is the lovechild of two of Tooting’s leading foodies: Hikmat Antippa of Meza and formerly Caprice Holdings, and Madeleine Limm of The Little Bar and ex-Food & Drink editor of the Independent magazine.  There is much noise made about Tooting being “the new Shoreditch” and the emergence of restaurants like The Little Taperia give weight to the neighbourhood’s hipster credentials.  The interior of The Little Taperia is straight out of Barcelona or Madrid – tiled floor, vintage prints on the walls, a huge bar lined with high wooden seats and stocked with everything you need to make a good cocktail.

The menu is straightforward, with tapas bar staples such as chorizo, croquetas and patatas bravas.  Furthermore, it’s all extremely reasonably priced.  You could happily order the entire menu without breaking the bank.  There’s also a substantial wine list, a decent selection of cocktails plus options for cava, sherry and port.  All Iberian bases well and truly covered.  Food-wise, we decided on the morcilla scotch egg with piquillo pepper chutney, salt cod fritters, chorizo in red wine and arroz negro.  Although seemingly simple, these were dishes at the top of their game.  The fritters were freshly fried puffs of soft saltiness, the arroz negro was satiny with squid ink and contained little morsels of squid and prawn buried within the blackness.  Chorizo is chorizo, but can often be overly rich and greasy.  Not the case with these fat little sausages.  However, the highlight was the morcilla scotch egg.  Banish those memories of the sad soggy specimens found on many a family picnic.  The breadcrumb “shell” was crisp, the yolk was soft, and the addition of pickled piquillo peppers on the side is genius.  Their sweetness is the perfect foil for the rich, meaty black pudding.

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We ordered churros with chocolate dipping sauce for dessert.  The churros were great – freshly fried and heaving with sugar.  The chocolate sauce was surprisingly bitter which is ideal when paired with such sugary morsels.  However, the sauce lacked depth of flavour and would have been better served warm.

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If you’re looking for a sunny spot in south-west London then The Little Taperia is perfect.  The food is of an extremely high standard, especially considering the price.  You can perch at the bar with a crisp glass of white and graze your way through the day.  When we actually see some real sun (can you sense the optimism here?) this little bolthole will make Tooting feel like Tenerife.  Well, almost….

The Little Taperia, 143 Tooting High Street, SW17 0RU
£21 for four plates of tapas, dessert and wine (based on their lunchtime menu)

The Little Taperia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Syrian Supper Club

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The scent of orange blossom filled the house in the old town of Damascus.  The courtyard garden, complete with its orange tree, offered a relaxing haven from the hustle and bustle of the city that was home to Louisa Barnett and Rose Lukas.  As students of Arabic, they moved to Damascus to learn the language and quickly fell in love with Syria’s intoxicating atmosphere and welcoming people.  However, the spark of revolution had been lit across the Middle East, and this grew into a raging inferno that consumed Syria.  In 2011, as the Arab Spring left chaos in its wake, the girls were forced to leave.

Back in London, Rose and Louisa could not forget the kindness and generosity that had been shown to them by the Syrian people, and so they started coming up with fundraising ideas to help those affected by the civil war.  Taking inspiration from their love of cooking, Syrian food and the increasing popularity of pop-up events in London, they teamed up with two others (George and Johnnie) and decided to host a supper club at their home, inviting friends to join them around their kitchen table.  The Syrian Supper Club was born and quickly grew to become a regular event.

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The supper club team now have their own registered charity, The Hands Up Foundation (Hands Up) which is the channel for all the funds raised at Syrian Suppers to reach Syria.  They work alongside partner organisations such as Syria Relief, a Syrian-run charity whose aim is to provide care to the 7.6 million people who have been internally displaced by the conflict, and to help reduce migration from Syria.  By providing those still within Syria with the means to survive, the team hope to encourage people to remain in the country, preventing the loss of vital knowledge and expertise.  This not only fosters local support, it also means that Syrians can look ahead to rebuilding their country.  Both Rose and Louisa have friends who still live in Syria, so providing in-country assistance is something that is particularly important to them.

With this in mind, the money raised through the Syrian Supper Club goes towards tangible projects which have very clear and demonstrable results.  One example of this is medical care.  The supper club fundraising has paid for hospital equipment, such as X-ray machines, as well as salaries for a team of medical staff in Aleppo.  Once there were over 5000 doctors in Aleppo, now there are only 35.  Can you imagine having access to only 35 doctors in London?  It’s hard to comprehend.   However, the supper clubs can potentially raise enough money to fund four years of medical salaries.  Some of the money also goes towards a prosthetic limb clinic on the Turkish border.  The staff had been making limbs from incredibly limited resources but, thanks to the Syrian Supper Club, they can now create around 60 limbs each month, giving people back their movement and their dignity.

Almost four years on from the very first supper club, the team now cater to 40 people each month at the E5 Bakehouse in Hackney, serving three courses of Middle Eastern-inspired food, plus a cocktail, for £35 a head.  The events are so popular that even overseas visitors make a point of attending.  The supper club team not only want to remind people of all that’s great about Syria – the food, the culture, the people – they also want to encourage others to host their own supper clubs.  As Louisa said, “Most people hold dinner parties for their friends so it’s actually really easy to fundraise; take the initiative, get out there, spread the word”.  Syrian Supper Clubs are now held as far away as Singapore and the USA.

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And if you’re not able to attend a supper club in person or host your own, then there’s still a way to contribute.  That orange tree in Damascus , with its bounty of bitter oranges, inspired Louisa and Rose to make their own marmalade.  They continue to do this in the UK and have even won a bronze award at the Dalemain Marmalade Awards.  Jars can be purchased at the supper clubs and the team are investigating options with retailers too.  So it really doesn’t have to take much money and effort to support the actions of Rose, Louisa and their team, as well as experience a taste of Syrian culture beyond what we read in the news.

Find out more about the Syrian Supper Club here
Photos courtesy of Syrian Supper Club

Arabica Bar and Kitchen


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You’re supposed to feed a cold, or so the saying goes.  So when my birthday rolled around and I was feeling less than fabulous, it made perfect sense to go to one of the few restaurants where I could easily eat pretty much everything on the menu.  Arabica Bar and Kitchen regularly features in Time Out London’s Top 100 Restaurants list, and it’s been on my radar for some time.  With food “inspired by the sun rise nations of the Levant”, it offers more than your bog standard mezze restaurant.  The menu features dishes such as whipped feta with chillies, mint and pumpkin seeds, Lebanese style roasted cod, and sticky lamb belly and ribs with a pomegranate honey glaze.  It’s not difficult to see why I was so spoiled for choice.

The restaurant itself is a rather sexy little number and, like the menu, offers a happy departure from the majority of Middle Eastern restaurants.  Exposed brick walls replace heavy fabric drapes, you sit on actual chairs instead of cushions, and there’s not a belly dancer in sight.  It’s more like a trendy urban cafe and has the same busy vibe.  We began with an aperitif.  In my case, this was the spiced Lebanese wine, which was basically mulled wine served in a dainty little cup.  Operation Defeat Cold was on.

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Our waiter advised us to choose a selection of small plates to start with, and then one main course each which we could share between us.  We kicked off with some moutabel, which is smoked aubergine with tahini, garlic, olive oil and lemon, falafel (natch), halloumi (can’t resist), and spiced venison bourekas.  This latter dish was a puff pastry parcel filled with pulled venison meat and sultanas, topped with flaked almonds and icing sugar.  It was like a richer version of the Moroccan pastilla, and one of the few more unusual dishes I got to try during this meal thanks to some fairly unadventurous dining companions.  That said, the mezze staples like falafel and halloumi were pretty fantastic and definitely a cut above the usual stuff that gets trotted out at most Middle Eastern restaurants.

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Again, our main course options were fairly limited thanks to my two companions both ordering the same dish.  Their choice was the chicken and pistachio shish with cardamom, honey and green chilli.  I’m always a bit wary of chicken kebab dishes, having eaten more than my fair share of dry, chewy scraps of meat.  Happily, these particular kebabs were moist and flavoursome, rich in their own juices.  My choice of main was the imam bayaldi.  This was half a roasted aubergine filled with a spiced lamb ragu and topped with tomatoes and pine nuts.  It was pleasant enough but I feel that it could have been a lot richer, with more depth of flavour.

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There was a smidgen of room left for dessert and right from the start I’d had my eye on the knafeh.  This is a Lebanese cheese pastry served warm, with orange blossom honey and crushed pistachios.  I had never tried one of these before so I was looking forward to scoffing it down.  The pastry was fine and flaky, like that on a baklava, and soaked with sweet honey.  It was filled with soft, elastic cheese – more like cooked mozzarella than baked cheesecake – but this was actually a lot nicer than it sounds.  Using a semi-hard cheese means that the whole dish is prevented from becoming overly rich and sickly.  Plus I’m sure all that honey did wonders for my sore throat…

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Getting to Arabica involves running the gauntlet through Borough Market, and I would advise you to keep your head down and not let yourself get distracted by all the loveliness on offer there.  You need to go to Arabica hungry.  Cold or no cold, there’s no excuse for not stuffing your face.

Arabica Bar and Kitchen, 3 Rochester Walk, SE1 9AF
£45 per person for three courses including drinks

Arabica Bar & Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Diner’s Best of 2015

Yep, it’s the end of another year so time for yet another list.  Here is my round up of the best things I have put in my mouth this year:

Chicken Berry Biryani from Dishoom
I visited the Kings Cross branch of Dishoom all the way back in January but I still keep raving about their biryani.  Tender meat, fluffy rice, a good amount of spice….it ticks all the biryani boxes but has the added bonus of cranberries.  Plus the restaurant itself just looks so, so sexy.

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Spaghetti with Cuttlefish and Ink Sauce from Osteria Alba Nova
Good food can be hard to find in tourist-ridden Venice, but venture away from the main hubs and you will be rewarded.  Cuttlefish cooked in ink is a local delicacy and the small, family-run restaurant of Osteria Alba Nova in Santa Croce turns out a cracking version of this.  Ink dishes can be on the heavy side but this pasta dish was as light and tasty as can be.

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Confit Duck Burger from The Frenchie
Confit duck in a burger?  It sounds like it shouldn’t work but, boy, does it ever…!  Juicy duck meat topped with crispy skin, truffled mustard, onion relish and your choice of cheese is about as naughty as you can get.  Everyone raves about the goats cheese version but my personal favourite is the smoked cheddar.  Find them at various markets around town.

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Apple Cake and Quince Vodka from Marchewka z Groskiem
There were just so many delicious things to eat and drink in Krakow and my waistline paid the price.  However, the apple cake at Marchewka z Groskiem in Kazimierz was worth the extra few pounds.  It was moist and buttery with enough apple to cut through the richness.  I washed it down with a quince vodka, another local speciality.

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Lamb Pie, Mash and Kale from 10 Greek Street
Sometimes I just want good, old fashioned British food and this pie dish from 10 Greek Street really hit the spot.  The pie was more like a pasty, instead of the usual pastry-topped casserole dish and was full to bursting with rich lamb stew.  Comfort food done properly.

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The Original Heartbreaker from Tongue ‘n’ Cheeks
I have eaten many, many burgers this year but the Original Heartbreaker is by far and away the best of the best.  The meat is smokey, rare and rich, and it’s topped with chimichurri, sour cream, cheddar and watercress.  Hunt one down at KERB – you won’t regret it.

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The Blessed Thistle from 46 & Mercy
There were tons of amazing cocktails on offer during London Cocktail Week but my top choice was the Blessed Thistle.  It is made with vodka, sherry vinegar, vermouth washed with pork fat, and thyme – a combination of ingredients that may raise an eyebrow.  However, not only do they work amazingly well together, the use of pork fat gives a delicate smoky flavour to the drink.

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Jerk Chicken from Mama’s Jerk
I well and truly stuffed my face at the various Street Feast locations this year, but the jerk chicken wings from Mama’s Jerk at Dalston Yard take the top spot.  It may not have been the sexiest looking dish ever, but simple is definitely best.  They were sticky, juicy, smoky, sweet with just enough heat behind them.  I looked like a total mess after eating them but it was worth it.

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Mutton Tikka from Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort
As one dish among over one hundred other amazing dishes at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah buffet in Oman, this mutton tikka faced stiff competition.  However, it stood out thanks to the tender meat and robust spicing. I even broke my buffet rule of going back for second helpings; it was that good.

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Sakura from Shochu Lounge
This is another fantastic drink that was available during London Cocktail Week.  Made with Nikka whisky, Cocchi Barolo Chinato vermouth, sakura tincture and plum soda, it was surprisingly sweet but tempered by the smokiness of the whisky.  A drink that I still think about to this day.

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I’m really excited about all of the potential culinary experiences that 2016 has to offer.  Does anyone have any recommendations?  If so, drop me a line; I’d be happy to hear them.

Happy New Year y’all.

Bar Termini

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Regular followers will know how much I love Soho.  I frequently lament the aggressive pace of change and new development in the area.  However, no matter how much I adore it’s grimy underbelly, I did not want to get up close and personal with the damp pavement of Brewer Street…..  I’m putting the blame squarely at the doorstep of Bar Termini and their fabulous Negronis.

I discovered Bar Termini a few months ago and have been a regular visitor ever since.  I love its chic, retro vibe – all staff in white coats, shiny coffee machine, and marble surfaces.  I love its teeny tiny, time capsule, Continental feel.  Perched at the bar, cocktail in hand, it almost feels like I’m in a Fellini film.  Most of all I love their sexy sexy drinks.  Bar Termini is perhaps best know for their Negronis.  A Negroni is a cocktail made from one part gin, one part vermouth rosso and one part Campari.  It is, without doubt, a drink for grown ups.  I first tried one earlier this year – at Bar Termini – and am now a bit of a Negroni addict.

Bar Termini is the brainchild of Marco Arrigo, the Head of Quality for Illy coffee, and renowned mixologist Tony Conigliaro.  So you can expect top notch drinks before you even step through the door.  The menu offers a choice of three Negronis – Classico, Rosato and Superiore.  The Classico is, of course, the classic Negroni recipe but cooked for a little longer to give a smoother finish.  The Rosato is made with a rose petal infusion, which gives a hint of sweetness.  The Superiore includes pink peppercorns, cooked through a sous vide to release the bitterness.  All are served in dainty little glasses, in true aperitivo style.  There is more to Bar Termini than just their Negronis however.  They also offer some seriously bad ass cocktails.  My personal favourite is the Marsala Martini, made with marsala dolce, vermouth, gin and almond bitters.

I take everyone I know to Bar Termini, so when my mum recently visited she was no exception.  She had never tried a Negroni before so, as she is a lover of gin, I was pretty confident that this was something she needed to know about.  The fact that she had to shortly catch her train back to Wales was by the by. As I recently read elsewhere, the bar is about coming for one before moving on.  Yeah….not in my world.  Mum loved the drinks, so several Negronis plus a Marsala Martini later and suddenly we were cutting it very fine for that train.  A mad dash across town ensued, as we wove on unsteady feet through the soggy streets of Soho.  And then, as I was doing that whole London thing of stepping off the pavement to overtake slow moving tourists, my foot slipped off the kerb and bam!  I fell flat on my face, toddler style, complete with bruised knees and scraped palms.  So much for that whole La Dolce Vita thing.  Anita Ekberg I most definitely am not.  Fortunately the embarrassment factor, made even more acute by the fact that my mum was there to pick me up off the floor, was diminished thanks to all the gin in my system.

So Bar Termini, your killer cocktails were quite literally my downfall, but that’s not going to stop me coming back for more.  I do have a Negroni addiction to feed after all.

Oh and mum missed her train.

Then sent me this….

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Bar Termini, 7 Old Compton Street, W1D 5JE

Bar Termini Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

London Cocktail Week 2015 – My Highlights

Mini clothes pegs.  Dainty egg-cup style glasses.  Drinks made with condiments, pork fat and even ants.  Yes ladies and gentlemen…London Cocktail Week is here.

There are so many things that I loved about London Cocktail Week.  The sheer number of bars taking part, not including the pop ups at Poland Street and Spitalfields, making me feel like the proverbial kid in candy store.  The opportunity to try something that I may not usually order.  How amazingly friendly everyone has been.  But most of all, I really loved how enthusiastic the bar staff have been.  Each person who served me clearly took so much pride in their bar and the effort that had gone into their LCW cocktail.  Here are my personal highlights from the week:

The Lucky Elder Martini – The Lucky Pig
Bombay Sapphire gin, St Germain elderflower liqueur, apple juice, lime juice and egg white went into this refreshing little number from one of my favourite bars – although  I think the egg white might have been forgotten…  I almost felt quite wholesome drinking this seemingly innocent cocktail.  My head was telling me a different story the next day, however.

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Sakura – Shochu Lounge
This didn’t taste at all like I imagined although, with ingredients like sakura tincture, I’m not sure what I was expecting to be honest.  Sakura is Japanese cherry blossom and is therefore an appropriate ingredient for a cocktail at this Asian-inspired bar beneath ROKA restaurant, mixed with Nikka whisky, vermouth and plum soda.  Surprisingly sweet, but not overly so, with a hint of smokiness from the whisky.

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Muggles Mark – Reverend JW Simpson
What a pleasant surprise to learn that the team at the Reverend had not one, but two signature cocktails on the menu for LCW.  Their recommendation was the Muggles Mark – Maker’s Mark, Liqueur 43, lemon, egg white and homemade spiced pumpkin juice served up in a mini tankard.  Only politeness prevented me from using my finger to scoop out what remained of the appropriately autumnal flavoured froth from inside my glass.

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The Pemberton – The Sun Tavern
Named after John Pemberton, the man who invented Coca Cola (you learn something new everyday!), this was made with Glendalough Double Barrel Irish whisky, lime juice, a coke and ginger reduction, and spiced chocolate bitters.  I was expecting a long drink tasting of coke but instead was presented with a little glass containing a creamy mixture with a hint of lime in the background.  Another one that was dangerously drinkable.

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Blessed Thistle – 46 & Mercy
I read the description of this and thought “What the actual fuck??”  Any drink made up of vodka, sherry vinegar, and vermouth washed with pork fat and thyme is going to be a gamble and I had visions of being presented with something that had translucent circles of fat floating around in it, a bit like my nan’s gravy.  Fortunately, no actual fat goes into the drink; it is filtered through a muslin cloth so only the smoky taste remains and it tasted fantastic!

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Latilla de los Muertos – Discount Suit Company
Firstly – I bloody love this place.  A proper little speakeasy around the corner from Petticoat Lane Market with barely any room to swing a cat.  Secondly – their LCW cocktail rocked.  Made with Ocho Blanco tequila, Briottet manzana verde liqueur, lemon juice, honey syrup, egg white, chocolate bitters, and Tabasco, this was another one that could have been “piss in a glass” (a phrase I have stolen from my friend who used it to describe one particular cocktail not featured here).  It was sweet, sharp and aromatic all at once, with the warmth of honey and a strange but not-unpleasant tingling sensation in my mouth.

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I would have loved to have had the time, money, and liver capacity to try each and every cocktail on offer this past week.  I barely scratched the surface and already feel completely broken.  My top pick of the week, however, is the Blessed Thistle from 46 & Mercy.  It takes some skill to make vinegar, pork fat, and thyme work in a cocktail, and to then create a drink that dings each and every one of your tastebuds is something to be applauded.  I’m looking forward to visiting again and trying some more of their selection.  But first, I need to detox for at least a month!

Duck and Waffle

IMG_0092After spending quite a bit of time hanging around in establishments at the top of tall buildings, I have realised that a pattern is emerging.   The higher up in the sky you are, the worse the service usually is.  Which is a shame for many reasons, not least because most of these places seem to implement a kind of “sky tax”, meaning you pay through the nose for the privilege of being there.  True, the views are spectacular so at least you have something nice to stare at while you wait half an hour to get served at the bar (Hutong, I’m looking at you).  However, is feeling like you’re on top of the world enough, when the staff seem determined to drag you back down to earth with a bump?

Duck and Waffle is located at the top of the Heron Tower, one of the newish skyscrapers to adorn London’s skyline.  It is open 24/7, so you can grab a bite to eat no matter what time of the day or night you fancy it.  It’s been on my “list” for a long time so when my friend suggested a sunrise breakfast there, I was already grabbing my coat and dashing out of my front door.  Our reservation was at 5:45am – yes, that’s AM – which meant that I had to get up at 4am. On a Sunday morning.  I’m notoriously sloth-like, so the dawn start is testament to how much I wanted to go to Duck and Waffle.

On arrival at the Heron Tower, we headed for the roped-off entrance to the restaurant which was manned by a security guard/Door Nazi.  Despite having clearly spotted my friend and I, the doorman chose to ignore us and have a conversation with another security guard/Door Nazi who was lurking behind a desk just inside the building.  Door Nazi 1 then emerged to usher through a couple who had arrived after us, while still managing to avoid acknowledging our presence.  Eventually contact was made, although we still had to wait on the pavement while he checked our booking with Door Nazi 2.  Once we got inside the foyer, we then had to wait while our booking was checked again, as well as being grilled about the exact whereabouts of the rest of our party.  For a moment it looked as if we would be turfed out onto the street to wait until the remaining three diners arrived, but my friend and I had completely lost patience by this point so made an Indiana Jones-style dive for the lift doors.  Finally we got to the inner sanctum….

Unfortunately the service didn’t really improve once we made it to our table in the sky.  Despite the restaurant being three quarters empty, we were kept waiting to place our order, to have our table cleared, to pay the bill.  The latter is one of my biggest pet peeves.  I appreciate that most people probably aren’t moving too quickly at that time on a Sunday morning but, if a restaurant is not keen to take the money that is rightfully theirs, then it makes me question why they are even bothering with this whole running a business thing.

The food and view did somewhat make up for the lack of everything else.  The breakfast menu is fairly limited but their signature duck and waffle dish was available.  And it was gooooood.  The waffle was fluffy, the duck was juicy, the egg was runny and, frankly, you can never go wrong with the addition of maple syrup to anything.  Everyone else in our party ordered the full English which met all expectations.  It’s just a shame that you have to negotiate your way through security worthy of a nightclub at 3am to even get through the front door.  Sadly the views > people theory remains unchallenged.

One course plus tea and juice- £27.00
Duck and Waffle, Heron Tower, Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AY

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Duck & Waffle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Flat Iron

IMG_0010I’ve been watching a lot of “Parks and Recreation” lately and have fallen a little bit in love with Ron Swanson – the deadpan, mustachioed, all-American red blooded male.  Ron Swanson has no time for nonsense such as salad or kale smoothies.  He likes his meat rare and his whisky neat.  He is probably my soulmate….  So I paid a visit to a restaurant that Ron Swanson would most definitely approve of – Flat Iron.  There is just one thing on the menu here and that’s steak.  Really really good steak.

Flat Iron is part of the annoying “no reservation” trend that seems to have swept London lately, so I played it safe and visited late on a Monday lunchtime.  I love my food but I’m not prepared to queue outside a restaurant on a grey, muggy day for it.  Safely seated inside, I was taken through the procedure by one of the waitresses.  Their star dish is a flat iron steak, served with salad and a range of sides and sauces.  They do now offer specials, such as burgers or other cuts of steak, but it’s not a place to visit if you’re not into red meat.

As I was a Flat Iron virgin, I decided to go for their signature dish accompanied by peppercorn sauce and dripping-cooked chips.  The steak came already sliced and perfectly rare, just the way I like it.  It was incredibly tender which made me think that the meat cleaver “knife” was possibly a little OTT, although Ron Swanson would probably disagree.  The peppercorn sauce had a sweetness from shallots and the chips were…well, what you would expect when the menu reads “dripping-cooked chips”.

As if all that artery-clogging fare wasn’t enough, I decided to add a dessert to my expanding waistline.  There was only one choice, so if you didn’t like chocolate salted caramel mousse then tough.  Although if you don’t like that then there’s frankly no hope for you anyway.  The mousse was served squirty-cream style, sprayed into an enamel mug by the waitress.  I was also provided with a pot of rock salt on the side with the advice that I was to sprinkle this over my mousse, for an extra salty kick.  This just served to prove my theory that there is nothing that can’t be improved by the addition of salt.

While single cuisine restaurants in London are now verging on the ridiculous (Come Fry With Me??), Flat Iron manages to maintain a degree of credibility.  The decor is New York chic, the service is slick and friendly without being intrusive, and the steak is damn fine.  I may not have gone full Swanson and ordered five courses of steak with a side of steak, but the quality of the meat on offer could tempt you to go on an all-out binge.  Oh and they do sell some green stuff too.  Sorry Ron.

Two courses, a side, sauce, and glass of house wine – £23.00
Flat Iron, 17 Beak Street and 9 Denmark Street

Flat Iron Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato