Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Lost: Christmas Spirit. Found: At A Street Market?

By Laura Collins.

Just a few days until Christmas and my festive cheer was severely lacking. Despite London’s increasingly early start to the seasonal festivities (I think I saw my first Christmas card back in October) I hadn’t been able to muster the merry tidings and joy that seem to ooze out of every corner of the city.
With limited shopping days left before the big day, I thought it was about time I pulled my finger out, shook off my Scrooge-like persona, and got into the festive spirit. I decided to head to a Christmas themed street party and market on Ritherdon Road, Balham. That would surely get me in the mood.....or so I thought.

Disappointingly, I couldn’t have been more wrong. What promised to be the answer to all my Christmas problems sadly wasn’t. The Christmas “street festival and market” was held in an attempt to spread seasonal jollity and to showcase the local shops. I admit that the mulled wine, minced pies and festive gifts on offer did add a certain seasonal element but the mere handful of stalls made it more a fete than a festival/market. Had I done my research on Ritherdon Road, I would have found that it only offered a small number of shops, hence the low amount of stalls and the fact that it took just 10 minutes to get from one end to the other. In hindsight, research is definitely something I should have done when coming all the way from North London!

The items on sale varied from jewellery and second hand bric-a-brac to food and homeware. Had my family have appreciated pretty trinkets, tempting cakes and wooden nativity scenes, I probably would have indulged in some spending but sadly I fear these gifts would’ve sat at the back of the cupboard. Despite having no intention to buy, I still took pleasure in scanning the stalls and happily soaked up the community atmosphere. I also enjoyed indulging in some very welcome food tasting, trying everything from cheese, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, to chocolate, caramel and dates.

All these testers gave me an appetite so it was time to find something more substantial. Luckily, the street event was sponsored by neighbouring restaurant, Locale, a busy Italian that seemed to offer the ideal answer to my growling stomach. Once again, however, my solution wasn’t perfect.

Although warm and welcoming, Locale was packed to the rafters with exceedingly loud children – a tell tale sign of the crowd that the restaurant attracts. This buzzing atmosphere may suit young families but it wasn’t top choice for my guest and I, especially when we had to shout across the table to hear each other.

That said, the food and wine at Locale were top notch and did detract from the playground environment that surrounded us. The scallops wrapped in pancetta are a must for any seafood lover and the 12oz steak was also a winner. When I left I was full of good food but sadly not full of my desired festive cheer.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Getting Jazzed Up On The Roof

By Flick Hardingham.

The Kensington Roof Gardens have come alive with the hip-swinging, foot-tapping tones of Jazz FM.  In a stroke of utter genius, an eclectic array of jazz, groove and whole lot of funk took over the Tudor Garden last month.

I know what you're thinking...do I need to wear my thermals for watching jazz up on the roof high above Kensington?  Fortunately, the clever folk at the Kensington Roof Gardens pre-empted London's hatred for sub-zero temperatures.  A heated marquee closeted us from the big freeze 100ft above Kensington High Street.  Doors opened at 7:30pm so we decided to get in to the groove with a delectable cocktail or two. 
First up was the ‘Rumour’ - fresh raspberries, mint and lemon juice shaken with homemade rhubarb syrup, raspberry liqueur and Tanqueray gin - delivered on a silver tray by a corseted waitress.  Ooh la la. Then on to yet more Tanqueray in the form of a ‘Charleton’s Muse’ with fresh passion fruit, lime, mint and elderflower liqueur. 
Our entertainment for the evening came in the form of the URBAN JAZZ Collective, led by Mike Hobart.  The experimental jazz-fusion trio were far from their Californian pad but could not have been more at home within the fairie light canopy of the white tent.
Their warm, fluid tones unfolded through ‘60s shuffles and Blue Note swing to edgy funk and R’n’B, lulling us into a mild intoxicated haze.  The pianist was a peculiarly attractive cross between Bob Geldof and Avid Merrion (strangely lush!) and amused us with random gesticulations as we reclined on a large squishable white leather puff.
My favourite tipple of evening was the Fine and Dandy.  Pampero Anejo Especial rum, Grand Marnier, dandelion and burdock and a splash of pink grapefruit shaken over ice.
Jazz FM's weekly sessions at the The Kensington Roof Gardens will kick off again on Saturday 15th January with R'n'B, soul and jazz singer Natalie Williams.  If you need some help to shift the January Blues be sure to pay it a visit.  You’ll leave feeling more than fine and dandy.

Read more about Jazz FM here.

Monday, 13 December 2010

The Best Way To Spend A Friday Afternoon In London

By Faye Armstrong.

A good friend of mine recently commented that in my future she sees me living on a canal boat, having built a fierce reputation for myself as the local crazy. Being the subject of fearful chatter amongst local school kids, they will run to the water’s edge and shout adolescent obscenities in a game of titillating tag which will make their hearts beat hard and fast in a bid to prove just how lionhearted they are. Apparently, I will share this floating house with many animals, paying special attention to my collection of birds and stuffed road kill. Quite the well thought out, off-the-cuff comment I think you’ll agree.

I’m somewhat of a clairvoyant myself, and in my future I see me no longer associating with this ‘good friend’. (My extra sensory perception must be on the fritz, this would obviously never happen, I’m certain she’s the only one who would bring me my bird seed from the local PetSmart.) In my future I see me whiling away a Friday afternoon with people of good standing order on a Veuve Clicquot Cruise, not with the handiwork of a taxidermist on a flat bottomed barge. Hold on, that’s not my future, that’s my past. Stupid crystal ball from GimmeGadgets.

Yes, I recently had the privilege of experiencing what I would consider one of London’s most unique and special activities: a Friday lunch cruise on the River Thames aboard the Silver Barracuda.

Before departing, my guest and I were offered champagne and canapĂ©s as the upper deck filled with London’s finest (mostly a blend of suited silver foxes and heeled blonde vixens) all of whom, although I’m sure were happy, looked unfazed by their current locale while my eyes shone with the light of unschooled expectancy, a verdant sailor finding my sea legs. A tricky aim when the ground beneath your feet rocks and you’ve consumed two glasses of Veuve.

The water cruising police pass alongside the Silver Barracuda and for some inexplicable reason I feel guilty and turn my head. No, there is no crime littering my past, I just harbour a strange disposition of unearned guilt. Like when you exit a shop and the alarm sounds and despite having not shoplifted you somehow believe you have, or when you buy booze and as the till assistant regards your countenance you blush and look cagey despite having ID in your purse officially stating that you’re older than you would care to have anyone know.

Perhaps the crowd around me feel the same or perhaps they are actually trying to evade the law, either way, whether coincidental or not, the sighting of the men in blue spurs a move by all to the lower dining deck.

For £115 (+VAT) per person I was expecting the scene I encountered. Decadent in its canvas of wood and unusual in its accents of Art Deco, the space was lit by both the ash wood chandelier and the natural light streaming through the curved windows hugged by booths now seating wide-eyed guests, struggling to decide where to look: at their plates filled with excellently cooked food or at the iconic scenes passing silently by the expansive windows. A green bean drops onto one woman’s lap. I know which sight she has chosen.

As the dishes of the specially selected three course ‘rhubarb’ menu pass me by – pumpkin and roasted pear soup, rump Welsh lamb with Boulanger potatoes, green beans and star anise jus, steamed ginger marmalade sponge pudding with rhubarb compote – the sights do too.

From boarding the Silver Barracuda at the Savoy Pier on the Victoria Embankment we cruised for two and a half hours from Westminster to Greenwich and back. What does this mean? It means I saw London’s most loved sights and architecture - Tate Britain, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the Savoy Hotel, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London, Canary Wharf, the o2, the Globe Theatre, the Tate Modern, the Oxo Tower, the Royal National Theatre, the London Eye - without having to see red on the tubes as people push and shove as I try to get from one sight to another in one piece, both mentally and physically.

It means that when the Silver Barracuda docked at 2.30pm I was feeling relaxed, euphoric, cultured and ready for the rest of my weekend. It means that unlike the usual Friday afternoon eye-rubbing which, like nail-biting and word-mumbling, only seems deranged when other people do it, there was no private fit for me to defend, “look, I suctioned latex disks onto my eyeballs every day and then dab what basically amounts to black paint around the whole area. What do you expect?” It means I was left with only a feeling of contentment and positivity, like I could walk on water. Hmmm, perhaps my friend’s vision of my future will come to pass. Now, where can I pick up a copy of ‘Best Barges For British Bonkers 2011’?

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Find The Fraggle At Covent Garden’s Newest Cocktail Bar

By Laura Collins

Dance your cares away (clap, clap), worry’s for another day, let the music play (clap, clap), down in Fraggle Rock...

Oh yes, a theme tune we all know and love, but not one I imagined myself humming on a night out in Covent Garden. Why was I humming it? Because the bar we were in had a secret fraggle hidden in the wall, of course. Why else?!

If finding a mysterious Fraggle after all these years isn’t a big enough incentive to try out the brand new Adventure Bar on Bedford Street, then I am sure the friendly service, unbeatable cocktails and cool, funky setting will be.

Based underground but offering a taste of the overground, this long, cavernous bar can’t help but entice. Adventure Bar oozes life, soul and style, not to mention a cracking list of cocktails and possibly the best mix of music I’ve ever heard. The choice was as eclectic as it gets. I heard something from every year and genre, although my pick of the night was quite clearly the original Baywatch theme tune – classic!

It doesn’t stop there. The service I experienced at Adventure Bar was incredible and the staff had a certain allure that pulled me to the bar almost immediately – it’s called friendliness, something that is a rarity in many London bars! The bartenders were in their element and clearly loved their jobs. They made the drinks with a sincere pride and enjoyment, which was a welcome change from the arrogant mixologists found in so many bars. They also know their stuff and willingly recommend cocktails that always hit the spot. From one question – what is your favourite tipple? – to the cocktail of your dreams in just seconds. Easy. Why can’t every bar offer this type of service?

Of course, you can choose your own cocktail from the vast menu, which offers an excellent but not too exhaustive list of choices. There is nothing worse than having to flick through an encyclopaedia of drinks before finally making a decision an hour later! Three (yes, three!) cocktails down and I was still loving the variety. I went from a strawberry champagne julep to a mango Collins (it’s all in the name...!) Despite the December weather, I even braved the brain freeze and went for a frozen wild berry daiquiri. Well, it was my birthday after all (sort of!).

After these drinks, I had a theory. Adventure Bar is actually just like the perfect cocktail – all the elements come together to create something dreamy, tantalising and to everyone’s taste. According to the owners, the concept behind the bar is simple. They want to offer the best cocktails, with the best service in the best atmosphere in Covent Garden! They seem to have done just that and I have a feeling they will make the bar go from strength to strength...well, how could they not when they have a Fraggle on their side (see if you can spot it)?!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Ever Cooked Pasta On A Roundabout?

By Rebecca Brett.

I’d never cooked pasta on a roundabout before, until last night. Along with five others, I was taken to a roundabout to make a delicious spinach and ricotta ravioli. The roundabout in question is the one that used to be home to what was described as ‘one of the ugliest buildings in town.’ Where the Park Plaza Hotel on Westminster Bridge now stands once stood a concrete eyesore. Now, it’s very much eye-catching.

Inside this 1000-room hotel is the restaurant Brasserie Joel. This is where the pasta-making took place. Be gone derelict building, hello sleek kitchen and restaurant.

I was invited along to meet the head chef, Michelin starred Joel Antunes and cook along with him, before heading into the restaurant while the award-winning chef cooked my wares and served us.

I love my job.

So into the kitchen, resplendent in chef’s whites, an apron and chef’s hat. I looked a treat. Perhaps this is why the majority of chefs are men; a woman in chef’s whites is really not the most flattering look. On me, anyway. Nigella could probably do it justice.

All of the ingredients were laid out and to save time, the pasta had already been made. Making the filling was simple, put all of the ingredients into the big bowl and mix. Who could mess that up? Erm, I probably could. Good job Joel was on hand to right my wrongs. We probably would’ve had food-poisoning if it was all left to me.

Filling made, then came the tricky part. Folding the filling in to the fresh pasta circles to make ravioli shapes. It’s easy when you know how; or when you’ve got a top Michelin star chef on hand to show you.

After completing the pasta, Joel showed us how to make a peanut butter chocolate mousse. This probably should be a lot harder than it was but with the help of a trusty Kitchen Aid (I’ll have one of these for Christmas please) it was easy as pie. Then the best part was having a sample of the heaven-sent chocolate air. The hardest part was restricting myself in front of the rest of the chefs. The door was close enough to run away with that mousse, and the Kitchen Aid if I could carry it.

After cooking, Joel showed us around the kitchen. It was a foodie heaven climaxing with the meat fridge; carnivorous delights in all shapes and forms.

Pulling myself away from the kitchen and I sat down in the lustrous Brasserie Joel restaurant to enjoy the fruits of my labour. The restaurant was packed, although Brasserie Joel was unknown to me before I visited, it seems the residents of the huge hotel know it well.

To start we tucked in to our own ravioli, topped with a seared scallop and a delicious buttery sauce. I was very proud of myself. OK, so I didn’t put it together but that pasta made the starter; as did the scallop and sauce.

A loin of lamb was star of the main course, served with pomme fondant, artichoke, aubergine caponata and my favourite accompaniment – lamb’s tongue. This might not be to everyone’s taste but I can’t get enough of offal – it’s so full of flavour. From the rest of the table’s clean plates – I think they enjoyed it too – even the first time tongue triers finished theirs!

Like we hadn’t had enough already, dessert arrived. A crispy rice base was topped with that ever-so-good peanut butter chocolate mousse, salted caramel and roast banana ice cream. The perfect finish to an enjoyable evening at Brasserie Joel.

Unfortunately for the average Joe Bloggs, not everyone can go in to the kitchen at Brasserie Joel and have the pleasure of meeting the charming Joel, but Joe Bloggs can appreciate his fine food in the restaurant. Unlike many chefs who have their name on a sign, Joel works six 14-hour days a week. Now that’s one roundabout I’ll be visiting again. Very soon.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Tanqueray’s New Live Lounge Up On The Roof

By Ruth Emery.

What Aegon is to tennis, Virgin is to the London marathon and o2 is to, well, the o2, Tanquerary gin has decided that it wants to be associated with the hottest unsigned bands.

And so it is that my boyfriend and I arrive at 6.35pm at the gorgeous Roof Gardens in Kensington on a crisp Friday evening. It’s the launch night of Tanqueray Live Lounge, and The Roof Gardens aren’t quite ready for us. The immense PR, event and staff operation is still running around making sure everything is in order: for the nervous unsigned acts backstage and the ‘lucky few’ (according to the press release) journalists and guests that have been invited to listen and drink at the launch party.

We are ushered into the (heated, thank god) marquee that has been set up on the roof terrace until April next year as the Tanqueray Live Lounge. Red drapes, gold framed pictures, black tables, poufs and swivel chairs make this a glamorous if a little tacky gin-drinking den. Given our early-bird status we’ve commandeered a little table close to the cocktail and canapĂ© flow.

And so we decide it would be rude not to sample everything; here are the highlights: moist tomato risotto balls, creamy goats cheese in an unfeasibly small potato, a delightful lamb in pastry number and a scallop with spinach and hollandaise sauce.

We sip lavender collins (gin, apple and lemon juice, lavender bitters and a splash of soda) and liquid gold (gin, pineapple, orange and saffron syrup), and quite a few others, but that’s all my memory allows. The cocktails all use Tanquerary gin of course, and I make one of those tipsy vows to search out these delightful gin concoctions more frequently and not always bark ‘G&T’ at barmen.

We try and regain our composure and not look like the freeloaders full of booze with risotto round our lips that we really are, and creep around the corner into the musical bit of the marquee. A chap who resembles Newton Faulkner, with a voice somewhere between Newton and Jack Johnson, is strumming and singing. This bit of the marquee is very chilled, everything’s white and cool and slightly futuristic; very different to the Moulin Rouge drinking den next door.

My boyfriend decides that the 17 canapes he’s scoffed is simply not enough for dinner, and we eventually leave the gin and music behind (with a bottle of gin and cocktail shaker in a goodie bag, ‘woo!’ I exclaim and hope I will stick to my tipsy vow).

Monday, 6 December 2010

Lucky Soho Gets The Bacchanalian Sunday

By Sophie Atkinson.

In these bleak days of austerity, Soho-based private members club Blacks is endeavouring to revive the aged-old tradition of Sunday lunches, with the help of some of the country's favourite foodies.

Blacks charismatic owner Giuseppe Mascoli has launched monthly Bacchanalian Sundays, which he is hosting with some of the UK's finest food writers and chefs. Guests so far have included Bill Knott and Telegraph food writer and journalist, Rose Prince; and if the rumours are to be believed, the line-up is only going to get better next year. This is also one of the few opportunities that non-members
will get to enter this prestigious Dickensian-style member's only club.

With its townhouse layout, creaking floorboards, roaring fires and Georgian decor, this 18th century house-turned-private-members-club is a dream venue for a three course Sunday lunch. Each host designs, prepares and cooks their dream meal and serves it to lucky diners with a selection of fine wines, handpicked to complement each course.

Our opulent afternoon at Blacks began with nibbles next to one of the many open fires and free-flowing, palatable brut. Guests mingled and chatted before being escorted to Blacks lavish dining room.

During our decadent dinner we were served potted crab and rabbit terrine – the richness of the terrine beautifully complimented by the light potted crab. Our main course – perfectly cooked pheasant with butter-braised cabbage and pearl barley – was enough to cater for even the healthiest appetites and was rich and heavy in the best possible sense. The delicate seasoning kept the food refined, not stodgy, and the differing textures complimented each other perfectly.

Dessert was absolutely heavenly with Rose serving up a recipe from her new book Kitchenella. The deliciously old fashioned toffee milk pudding wasn't much to look at, but the novel combination of bread served with milk and caramel was divine and unforgettable; almost certainly a recipe I'll be looking up for my next dinner party.

This was truly the most divine way to spend a wintery afternoon. If only every Sunday could be like this...

Friday, 3 December 2010

The Best Experience Ever Had Under A Motorway

By Christian Rose-Day.

There are several ways to celebrate your 1st birthday: squeal demands; vomit up breast milk; urinate on family members; ignore new toys in favour of the box they came in; smash Mum’s favourite thingie; stare uncomfortably at other little people (new friends, apparently); and maybe crawl into Kitty’s day-old litter. My 1st birthday mainly consisted of eating, drinking, crying, and puking over myself. Ooooooh how things have changed. Yeh, hmmm, right, anyway, so, Dutch-imported bar-cum-club-cum-restaurant-cum-adult-play-centre, Supperclub in west London, this week celebrated its inaugural year of London residence and I wholeheartedly admit that the Supperclub 1st birthday party was by far the best experience I’ve ever had under a motorway (although the A40 Westway isn’t technically a motorway).

When we arrived, the gathered crowd of journalists and beautiful people were huddled together in the dark, broody light of only the bar. They seemed happy enough though, especially as they were warm and sipping on complimentary champagne and cocktails. After a while, Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra (you know the one that Kubrick expertly chose for the opening credits of 2001: A Space Odyssey) was played out and the doors to the main room were pulled back.

Having never been to Supperclub before, I was intrigued to find out what all the fuss was about. Split into two levels - dance floor and viewing balcony - the main room is bright white and the edges are furnished with large bed-sofas. My music-loving +1 companion remarked how impressed he was with the speaker system. He then also gazed around the room at the clientele before mentioning, “and a nice mixture of talent too”.

The theme for the evening was either gluttony or indulgence, or both; everything seemed to revolve around extreme hedonism. The staff were all decked out in white with white face paint to match, two gorgeous masseuses wore white as they manipulated flesh on the beds, whilst the ring leader strutted about in his top hat. Various androgynous beings drifted throughout the melee wearing outfits that were suggestive and engaging: burlesque corsets; skimpy pants; capes; towers of orange hair; and a Union Jack all-in-one skirt and gimp mask, like Ginger Spice multiplied by Scary Spice.

Throughout the night we were treated to a sophisticated freak show of performance acts: an acrobatic balancing man (ripped as a muthafunsta); a lip-synch drag king; and one act that extracted the following comment from my companion - “That was just wrong, man!”. Some kind of pig-man-woman took to the stage wearing a check tweed jacket and britches, under which he/she wore an apron and frilly knickers. After downing a whole bottle of wine, he/she swallowed fire, pulled a string of sausages from the front of his/her knickers, and then a poo-covered tail from the rear, before promptly eating it. Or, at least, it certainly looked that way.

The show got even more mental when a peroxide blonde in the chiffoniest of chiffon gowns started inserting needles through the flesh on her stomach, before using said needles to squirt ink onto a white canvas on the floor. The closing part of her eye-opener involved a knife tearing at the crotch part of her tights and a decent amount of simulated (I hope) blood gushing from her nether regions. The final colourful canvas was then hung up for everyone to see. My guest refused to call it a work of art. I reminded him that art was as much about the journey as it was the destination, a sentiment I’m fairly sure the crew at Supperclub would share with me.

I liked how Supperclub went just a little too far with their acts. Neither myself or my guest felt entirely comfortable whilst we were there, but we couldn’t deny we had a great time.

Most people, like us, were ignoring the standard House playlist that the capable DJ was offering because they were more drawn to what to was going on around them. I met a girl up on the balcony - who, from a distance, I thought was an ex of mine, but thankfully wasn’t - who advised me to pick up a glass of the champagne and a glass of the pink vodka-based cocktail that were being given away at the bar and to mix them together. She’d apparently had four of these home-brews by the time we spoke. She was also convinced that the stunning, tall woman in the very, very short skirt who’d help to kick the proceedings off earlier on stage was actually an ex-man. I still have no idea if she was right or just drunk.

‘Greed Ain’t Going Nowhere’ - that was the phrase scribed across a beautifully imaginative mural on the staircase leading to the facilities upstairs. I couldn’t have put it better myself. And for all the 1-year-olds reading this, there’s a valuable life lesson for you to learn there.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Proud Of Camden’s New Restaurant?

By Kate Williams.

You've been to Proud Camden, right? It's one of those places we've all ended up at one time or another. It has a gravitational pull common among NW1's other iconic venues, and has built up quite a reputation.

A reputation for attracting big name bands and DJs like Mark Ronson and Florence and the Machine, a reputation for gorgeous clientele, whose glossy mag attractiveness is only bettered by their bar staff. What I think of when I think of Proud, though, is a grown up alternative to a Camden night out. A slice of cool without the side of chaos.

This more polished night out might not be to everyone's tastes, but Camden has enough grungy pubs for them to hang out in and Proud successfully pulls off a more ordered hipness with panache.

Already known for cabaret, art, as well as nightclub shennanigans, Proud has something new up its trendy t-shirted sleeve. I was there earlier this month for the launch of their latest venture, a restaurant, Proud Kitchen.

Now, Camden isn't short of places to eat and bang smack in the middle of a market made up of tempting smells, it might seem like an unnecessary string to their bow. However, the thinking behind the new restaurant addition is simple, and typically Proud: a decent, civilised place to get a pre-gig/night out dinner.

The dining room, all candlelight and fresh flowers, is charming but then you'd have to try pretty hard to make this tastefully renovated 200-year-old Grade II Listed Horse Hospital anything but.

Long dining benches made for a lively atmosphere, and it was easy to imagine away the amiable troughing journos I shared the evening with and replace them with buoyant birthday party guests, filling up before a night of boozy dancing.

Not that the menu is just stomach lining fodder. The roast sea bream fillet and shredded fennel was fresh and tasty but outshone by the grilled Bavette steak with caramelised onion mash, which got rave reviews all round. As did the beetroot and milk chocolate fondant pudding served with clotted cream.

For £19.50 a head, you can choose from a small yet wordy three course set menu, which makes for pretty good value by anyone's reckoning. A splash of imagination provided by Michelin-trained chef Finlay Logan is what makes Proud Kitchen stand out from it's chain restaurant and pub grub heavy neighbours.

That said, Proud Kitchen isn't trying to top the to-scoff-at list of any of this city's many foodies, but if you're there for a night out - and trust me, you will be at some point - it's more than worth booking a table. A decent restaurant in a nightclub is just the latest in this venue's interesting ideas. Proud? They should be. In fact, I'd go as far as to say smug.

Read more about new bars, restaurants, pubs, and club in London, check out the Fluid London Top 10 of new venues.

Friday, 26 November 2010

New Basement Bar Near Oxford Street

By Leah Harper.

With its basement location, it would be all too easy to let Bar 92 go unnoticed, but having attended the launch night, it looks to be one place that is certainly worth making the effort to find. Guided by tea lights and a helpful bouncer, we began the night by descending the stairs to this underground hideaway, having no idea what to expect.

Whilst you might easily mistake the red neon ‘Bar’ sign on the stairwell as an indication of leather bar stools and American rock music, you couldn’t be more wrong. Firstly, Bar 92 is dark, and it took a moment for us to register our surroundings and choose a seat. In our confusion, we opted for small table seats, which looked like they should’ve sat more than two people, but were so close together that we clashed knees repeatedly, trying to clamber in.

Bar 92 is remarkably comfortable though. It’s small enough to seem intimate and romantic, but big enough to feel lively and accommodate fairly large groups of guests. The singular bar, on the other hand, is small and despite being sat close by, we were glad of the waitress service. There were a range of complimentary drinks provided, including two delicious cocktails. The ‘Eternal’ comprised of gin with peach and kiwi juice, and was a favourite with my plus one. However, the bar’s signature – the ‘Ninety-Two’ – was equally as yummy, merging vodka and apple liqueur with white grapes and lychee juice.

There were also flutes of Prosecco on offer, which only served to add to the city-style sophistication of the bar. It might be situated just ten minutes from the shopping haven of Oxford Street, but the opening night certainly isn’t short of the number of suits and pencil skirts needed to constitute an officially classy clientele.

One thing this bar excels in is getting the balance right. Olives, feta and sundried tomatoes are available in perfect snack-sized portions, and were listed on the menu at perfectly sensible prices. The music is audible, but not loud enough to be a conversation killer. Bar 92 might not be the sort of bar you’d spend more than a couple of hours, but in an area that already excels in restaurants and cafes, this is a great secluded spot to enjoy a tipple or two after work or before a big night out.

Read more about new bars, restaurants, pubs, and club in London, check out the Fluid London Top 10 of new venues.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The 2nd Best New Cocktail Bar in Shoreditch

By Christian Rose-Day.

A few weeks ago I proffered my opinion on the best new old bar in Shoreditch. On Thursday of last week I was invited to the launch of another new Shoreditch bar, The Nightjar.

Shoreditch is fast becoming an area I cant seem to leave. Although I (am pretty sure I) reside in south London, I’ve been out in Shoreditch no less than 5 times in the last two weeks. It just keeps calling me back and I honestly admit, The Nightjar is the 2nd best new cocktail bar in Shoreditch.

And last Thursday was probably the 5th best Thursday I’ve ever had. I would’ve said it was the 4th best Thursday I’ve ever had, but only if I could’ve started judging after 4pm.

The good friend who was accompanying me that Thursday - who I hadn’t seen for a while - had grown a moustache. Probably the 8th best moustache I’ve ever seen. His new look was particularly fortuitous considering the retro vintage persona of The Nightjar, and, indeed, when the bar began to fill up with like-minded freeloaders like us, it appeared some of those present had donned a costume for the occasion. For my chum, this was the number 1 coincidental hairgrowth of all time. I, on the other hand, was sporting the 3rd worst hairstyle ever (the other two were also present that Thursday night, oddly enough), and stuck out like a sore thumb; the 4th most sore thumb in history.

Luckily, nobody really seemed to notice as we’d arrived too punctually (the sign on the door had only just been fitted) and the busy staff were busying themselves with the final preparatory touches. (The entrance, by the way, is the 3rd hardest entrance to find in Shoreditch, in keeping with its Prohibition speakeasy style. As a clue, though, look for the dark door between a Kafeteria with a ‘K’ and a Cafeteria with a ‘C’).

The bar itself was filled with inviting contrasts. The soothing difference between the matt finishes - soft, soft brown leather and walls - and the shiny surfaces - very professionally-made mirrors and golden ceiling - were the 2nd best example of modern Art Deco I’d seen in 2010.

Soon enough, the band - the filthy swingsters, Topshelf Jazz - began to play. Despite their ragtime, boogaloo rhythm, they were definitely one of the top 10 noisiest bands I’d ever seen, and easily the 2nd loudest band I’ve seen underground. They were also the 3rd most amusing band I’ve ever seen, jokingly interacting amongst themselves both during and between songs, plus alternating between various types of comedy hat.

My pal and I decided to work our way chronologically through the evening’s concise list of special cocktails. We started with the pre-Prohibition Morning Glory Fizz - a moreish combination of Scotch whisky, absinthe, egg white and champagne which was the best cocktail of the night - and ended with the modern Nightjar signature, the Ladybird - Rhum orange, Belgian truffle liqueur, Caribbean spices and orange bitters. Although table service was swift, delightful and courteous, the regularity of the samples was hindered by the voracious appetite of the gleeful crowd, and the lightning-quick staff could not keep up. Let’s hope this is just a teething problem, especially as a light Mediterranean grazing menu is available from now on.

Our evening got better and better when, again fortuitously, we positioned ourselves in such a way as to warrant conversation with complete strangers; a practice that was prevalent in the Prohibition period, no doubt, but a practice that has fallen to about 12th in the all-time list of ‘things to do in a cocktail bar’ these days.

To our right was a young Swedish lady (blonde, naturally) who was not only winsome but fascinating to boot. She is the CEO and Founder of a company called Mutewatch AB which manufactures incredible touch-sensitive watches; one of which she was able to demonstrate to us that night. The 2nd best watch demonstration I’ve ever seen (and easily the coolest watch I've ever seen).

When our new Swedish friend disappeared into the night we began chatting over cocktails with the two young ladies to our left - Michelle from Camden and her friend Holly - who were at The Nightjar launch for reasons similar to our own. Thus, we struck an accord with Michelle from Camden and her friend Holly, and continued to chat with them for the remainder of the evening. Towards the end, Michelle had this to say about The Nightjar: “Lively, great music, and the cocktails are delicious. Good fun for a bit of a boogie too.”

The intimate stage at The Nightjar has a tidy upcoming schedule of traditional jazz, blues, swing, tap, vintage style and cabaret song so music lovers will see this bar as their 3rd most important thing to do this month. I imagine The Nightjar will also be particularly popular with late night cocktail revellers and those who work long hours within the bar industry.

So, overall, the 5th best Thursday I’ve ever had, at the 2nd best new cocktail bar in Shoreditch; in my opinion.

To discover more of the best bars in Shoreditch, follow this link.