Friday, 31 August 2012

Bourne and Hollingsworth, Centre: 20/20

Location: 28 Rathbourne Place, off Tottenham Court Road

Visit: Weekday Evenings

To Note? Another basement joint, go just round the corner and look for the black abnd white print on the wall

Ambiance 5/5
Design 5/5
Drinks 5/5
Staff 5/5
Extra LBS star: not when you have experienced the joys of The Fourth Wall…and The Blitz…but I wouldn't change a thing here! 

I was not taken by surprise at the interior of this cocktail bar having been to their pop up, The Fourth Wall, however without pre-warning you may wonder if you just stepped into Grandma’s living room. The walls are papered in yellow floral print. The tables are covered covered in lace clothes. There is a fireplace. And a Mary Poppins lamp. And there are very good cocktails.

Already a huge fan from the events they run – The Blitz for one which I have been remiss at writing up – I have tried some of their menu like ReBourne and Hollingsworth Fizz. Their menu is a folding miracle with each opening revealing another page but there are grouped in an easy-to-read manner and handily show the glass style beside each one (in case you have a need to go elegant, or for a long drink). There was no water on offer – fail – but the drinks which were a very pink Ginger Daisy and a Cherry Sidecar were nicely balanced and well priced at just £7.50 each. The bar staff are also friendly and really know their stuff.

In the midst on no reservations London, you can reserve one of the 8 or so tables round the edge of the room and you’d be advised to do this if arriving later than 8pm or with a group; having been here late before, once the DJ hits the decks you won’t want to leave either.

An absolute gem in the centre of London but shh, don’t tell everyone! 

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Chicken Shop, Kentish Town 15/20*

Location: Kentish Town, in the LA Fitness/Soho House compelx

Visit: Weekday evening

To Note? Look to the left of Pizza East, yes, there, it’s down those stairs

Ambiance 4/5
Design 4/5
Drinks 3/5
Staff 4/5
Extra LBS star: they can have a * for a unique concept…for now at least

A vague recollection that something was happening in Kentish Town took us out for the first official night of Chicken Shop, an offshoot of Soho House’s Pizza East and Dirty Burger out the back. We were not planning to stay, we came for the burgers, but at these prices we could not resist.

Offered the choice of a table or counter by our enthusiastic American waiter we went for counter. (They should install bag hooks straight away). The restaurant is wood clad but it only feels like a Scandanavian sauna in the toilets, otherwise the look is rustic cook house, which I imagine is what they are going for. Leather diner chairs and metal marketing plaques round the walls give the 1950’s look and the wood on the ceilings and walls continues with large wooden cupboards along one wall and a counter that functions as both the bar and the chopping board for the chicken as well as a seating area. Cutlery (and tooth picks) come in white metal cups (think prison style) and sauces are “smoky” (aka hot) or hot!

When we asked for a menu (the couple beside us arriving after had already ordered) they pointed us to the wall. Fine. I am short sighted and the lighting would definitely be described as romantic, even to blind groping levels. I asked them to read it out since the concept was simple. Chicken cooked rotisserie style is all that’s on offer and is £14 for a whole, £7 for a half, you get the idea. It was tasty and generous – and also served in a white metal pan – however since all it had to do was come from the knife in front of us to the table it was a little cold. Sides are £3 for slaw (excellent), fries (v.good) and corn (amazing with garlic butter) and £4 for a large lettuce and avocado salad. You also get a white metal pan for finished cobs and bones. We ended up taking about a quarter of the food home, and since they do take out this is not at all a problem and you get a big brown US style bag sealed with their Chicken Shop stickers. It feels quite cool.

Don’t expect big things in the drinks department with three beers (Guiness, Camden Ale at £4.50 a pint and other), one cider (Aspalls at £3.50) and all the rest is wine. For some reason they insist on emptying the wine into – you guessed it – white metal jugs. I can understand for a carafe but for a while bottle, pointless. They also seemed to have someone whose job was to put ice into glasses. I know its still finding its feet but staff seemed bored.

So overall what was the outcome. Great value for money. Tasty chicken if a little cool. I think it has potential; as does the slab of apple pie that sat in front of us all night, but just needs to bed down and let staff find their feet. 
Square Meal

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Cocktail Reading and Tasting A Bit Of History

Hix Bar, Soho

I am not going to rate this bar because I have only been once – and at these prices I am unlikely to go back any time soon (cocktails start at £9 though most are £10.50 and upwards, not outrageous but nonetheless…)

The reason I am writing this is because on the advice of Gin Monkey and Adam of DrElmegirab Bitters I took up some cocktail history reading and very soon got addicted. So I started off with the very readable Straight Up Or On The Rocks: A Story of the American Cocktail by William Grimes. This was a great place to start tracking the progression of drink in general travelling from the taverns of the west to glitzy hotel bars in the city and back to old techniques being reintroduced in today’s bars (though it does need updating with current fast moving trends, prohibition etc). It also got intrigued looks on the tube. There was a quite a lot of mention of punches, but nothing was on a par with the full history found in Punch by David Wondrich – utterly recommended and I am now onto his other book Imbibe! – which, as the title suggests, is all about the punch: the history, the tools, recipes old and new. Utterly fascinating.

Reading these recipes David has done his best to give you access to the drinks “of yore” but we simply do not have the same ingredients around. However when I saw The Criterion Milk Punch at Hix I simply had to go for it. Yes. MILK! And it was so interesting, in a good way.

-          El Dorado 5yo Demerera Rum
-          Martell VS Cognac
-          Pineapple, citrus, spice and milk infusion
All clarified and bottled and served in a metal julep cup with shaved ice and pineapple garnish

It was just so complex with a very fresh palate but a lush texture, creamy and weighty. I would definitely have this again. (Gin Punch a la Terrington made with lemon sherbet that I read so much about was also incredibly well executed).

I do wonder how many people would dare order a cocktail with milk and citrus in, either way, I thoroughly recommend getting your hands on any of these books, then heading to Hix for a special occasion to take yourself back in history. This is the Time Traveller’s Cocktail Club (unlike this!)

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Time Traveller's Cocktail Club: 14/20*

To Note: The Dig Party Planners organise one-off events, see website below for more

Ambiance 3/5
Design 5/5
Drinks 3/5
Staff 3/5
Extra LBC star: *yes, because it was different!

One Saturday evening at the end of June, 30th to be precise, I went to one of the strangest events I have encountered in London: The Time Traveller’s Cocktail Club.

After reading about it on ever reliable The Nudge, I signed up to this event that was taking place at The House of 100 Years, No.9 French Place. We almost missed the alleyway leading down to this party even though it was metres from Shoreditch High Street. Dressed in 1940’s gear – it said simply to choose an era – we had our names ticket off and were handed a small glass of sherry and a drink token each - £15 a ticket, really? – and headed up the extremely narrow rickety wooden stairs. (By the way, there were no parlour games at the start and the pianist had got bored and disappeared. Also no cloakroom). The first level of this strange house – The Parlour - was a 1920’s club with a gramophone in the corner and an over-the-top “American” hostess who loudly introduced herself the the following occured:

“So what’s your name?”
“Amanda. Baxter”
“Oh my god, from Baxter Steel?! What a pleasure to meet you!”
“Um ok, lets go upstairs”

Onto the next level which was 1960’s – The Green Room - with a kitchen in one corner (?), comfortable sofas, black and white films projected on the walls and two girls dancing around the room. It took us a while to establish they were paid to do this. No one joined in. We liked this room, it felt like a house party. In a weird I-don’t-know-anyone way. The single toilet that was also a shower room downstairs did nothing to disperse this idea.

One more up level to The Loft Party. There was a multi coloured light ball, and girls dancing round it barefoot. Were they paid too? We didn’t know. That was about it, with bad 1980’s music from a boom box. We moved on.

And lastly upstairs to The Rooftop Science Lab. And once again, there was no “futuristic molecular and test-tube cocktails”. In fact we just enjoyed the views and wondered what was going on a few blocks over, looked good. Then feeling guilty, there was a 20 people at a time rule, one out out in thing, we headed back down.

It was a very strange night; it would have been better in a big group and we heard the hostess complaining at the poor turnout even if people had already handed over their money for the tickets. We had two cocktails each which was enough, they were not the best. Not bad, but not great either. This was mainly in the 20’s room, avoiding the crazy hostess winding up her fake gramophone.

Then we headed home. Hardly “the mind bending not to be missed event” that it promised to be. However, it was memorable. 

From Dig Party Planners - 

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Bar Nightjar, Shoreditch: 18/20* (re-reviewed)

Location: City Road, just off the Old Street roundabout


Visit: Friday night

To Note: If you reach a dodgy sandwich shop you're gone too far, look out for the bouncer to guide you and book!

Ambiance 5/5
Design 5/5
Drinks 4/5
Staff 4/5
Extra LBC star: * For great music and excellent last minute catastrophe cover

So back in November 2011 I reviewed Bar Nightjar, and since then I have visited a plethora of speakeasies, 1920’s nights and cocktail bars across London. So what would I think on my return?

Well, the greeting at the door is one reason why I have stayed away this time. They keep you waiting outside, firmly unwelcome, until your name is taken, confirmed, someone comes to get you from upstairs, someone then opens the door downstairs and takes you to your table. Now I don’t mind all this but for heavens sake would a smile and a “Good Evening, I do hope that you have booked to join us as we have a very popular evening of music”. The door staff could learn a thing or two from the wait staff, who are lovely.

We got stuck right into the cocktail menu and as mine did not show up for 10 minutes (an oversight) they apologized with a glass of champagne whilst it was getting prepared. And let me tell you there was serious drink envy going on. The Stonefence (I think!) came in the most fascinating little wooden bucket with a wooden straw; a Plantation Potion had a singed cape gooseberry that meant you smelt bonfire before the coffee infused palate kicked in. If you hadn’t guessed, presentation is a lot of what goes on here but do not undermine how good drinks are either. I was intrigued by the Moby Dick with its whale skin infusion but opted for a slightly disappointing B-A-Q Daiquiri. No matter, they got it bang on with the The Commodore which not only came with a floating chocolate cup of Chocolate Eau-de-Vie but also a square of dark chocolate topped with a cherry. We also indulged in some “El Presidente” chocolate truffles – we missed dessert! – which were rich and tasty but more of an alcoholic kick would not have gone amiss.

Lastly we opted for a steaming teapot, how could we resist the lure of dry ice in a cocktail?? This was called Nightjar TT Punch and consisted of Hendricks, Rhum, chai and lime and was fabulously fresh and well balanced, slipping down all too easily.

The live music we went to see had “a catastrophe” however we were all refunded and they got another band to step in. They did not start till 11pm but we caught a good half hour and they were good enough to make us want to return. In fact I already have my next two cocktails I want to try marked out from the playing card pack of recipes….!

Great night, why not get a group of friends together, dress up and enjoy this bar to the full. Its not cheap, but you’d be hard pushed for a better speak easy experience in London

Friday, 3 August 2012

The Table Café, Southwark: 18/20

Location: 83 Southwark Street SE1 0HX

Visit: Tuesday evening, Wednesday mid-morning, Thursday lunch

Ambiance 5/5
Design 4/5 (benches are not for looong sitting)
Drinks 4/5 (spirits to come!)
Staff 5/5
Extra LBC star

The Table Café. London’s Best Kept Secret.

As a tagline it worked for this Southwark Street eatery for a while but after seven years they are now stepping into the limelight and this is what their Tuesday night launch was all about. And they have a lot to shout about.

The Table was designed by the architect across the corridor; this used to be their office canteen which seems rather luxurious considering today’s limited real estate! It won’t help if I say it is like my office, but it is. There is a concrete ceiling and pillars. Windows are floor to ceiling and make up the walls. Seating is on sturdy wooden long tables and benches with orange cushions and there are high stools along the edges and (YES!) outdoor seating in a sheltered courtyard out back. The kitchen takes up the back wall and is open plan creating a nice buzz.


Open from 7.30am till 5pm and steadily increasing their evening hours too, weekdays will offer breakfast and lunch with coffee and cakes in between; weekends are more brunch and I have been told create queues out the door, oh my! Breakfast offers one of my favourite – and yet least explored options – of French toast with banana and bacon. Yes, both. The salty and sweet work so well. Lunch and dinner are inspired by new chef Cinzia Ghighoni who not only started Michelin bib winning Zucca with owner Sam but went onto London dining scene darling Duck Soup. She has infused the menu with Italian “small” and “large” plates as well as excellent Italian breads. The friggitelli and ricotta was a favourite (peppers!) as was grilled chorizo but what really took me by surprise was the beetroot. I don’t like it. Seriously; but this offering was almost sweet and so tasty I will go back for more. Could this be to do with how local this is? Vegetables come from just half a mile down the road from plots run by the St Mungos homeless programme. Ethical as well as delicious and the launch saw us take away boxes of this local produce (the “shard” chard was particularly good!)


The wine list has also had a make over by Matt Walls ( who has created a concise, interesting, food friendly list. I particularly like the Masseria Pietrosa Verdeca 2010 from the whites and the Prieuré de Montézargues Tavel Rosé 2011 from the rosés for interesting summer drinking. They continue their local theme with Coates and Seely English sparkling. It may be winning awards but like many local wines it has not convinced me yet… Do watch this space for some interesting news on spirits, the next menu they are drawing up.


Music To Dine For has seen The Table offer evenings of wine and fine dining paired with acoustic jazz. I cannot think of many better ways to while away an evening and look out for more tasting events to be put on as the year goes on.


There are big plans here. Shaun (@thetablecafe) manager and owner, has more than proved to investors that this little number has real gravitas. There will be work on the outdoor area, (much needed in this area), more events, a carefully chosen spirits menu and with Cinzia at the helm in the kitchen the only way is up.

Square Meal