Thursday, 29 July 2010

Fluid London Goes Walkabout


Recently, the nice people at Walkabout offered four members of the Fluid team the opportunity to hang out at their Temple Walkabout venue for the evening, entirely on the house (I told you they were nice). It would have been highly unprofessional to turn down such a cordial invitation and so myself (Christian), Arthur, Laura and Claire dutifully accepted the offer. Here is what the four of us thought about our evening:

Christian Rose-Day:
Last time I was here, I was thrown out. I say thrown out, I mean I was told that my crossed-eyed swaying in the centre of the dancefloor was cause to politely suggest that I should probably go home to bed. Perhaps my weak grip on the pint of Fosters I was spilling was a giveaway.

Regardless, that epoch has long since been buried in the rubble of time and I am now ticking a different box when filling out the ‘age’ section of any form or questionnaire. I’m also wiser (hopefully) and less inclined towards raucous behaviour prompted by a rampant lager binge. No, it’s all ales and ciders for me now. Hence, I was sceptical about what an oldie like myself could possibly get out of a visit to Walkabout, despite the kind offer extended to us.

Well, three pear Kopparberg ciders and a rooftop full of good British sunshine later and I was convinced that I had misjudged my former conceptions of Walkabout. My first ever taste of kangaroo also had a part to play in this assumption, being that it was a leaner, more compact competitor to a beef burger, although the burger buns and fries were woeful in comparison to the meat. The view across the coach car park that is Embankment and out over the River Thames must also get a mention here because there aren’t many land-based venues on the north bank that can beat it. Well done Temple Walkabout, and well done the Temple Walkabout table staff stationed up on the roof terrace. Their manners are as alacritous as that of a kids’ show host.

It was only when the sun dipped and we went inside [weird exit policy which means roof-dwelling punters who need the loo must walk around to the front door to enter] that I began to feel a tad old. It was a Monday night and Temple Walkabout was rammed full of youngsters from every corner of the globe dancing to what is probably played on Radio 1 (certainly not Radio 6 Music). I think I was the only person there who wasn’t asked for ID. The theme for the night was allegedly Spanish/Brazilian but none of us recalled any salsa music. Perhaps the Spanish/Brazilian element was down the customers, who were clearly from climate more clement than ours.



Laura Collins:
“....where beer does flow and men (and women!) chunder...”

The eve of my 23rd birthday was spent in Walkabout. The day I turned 23 was spent mainly in the bathroom.  For one night only, I had embraced not only the Australian attitude to having a good time but rather a lot of their shots as well.  Needless to say, the thought of setting foot in a Walkabout again sent a few shudders through me and brought back a few nauseating memories.

For that very reason, I am proud of my recent actions.  I had a refined night at Temple Walkabout.  On a regular Monday in July (a few too many years on from my 23rd birthday) I hadn’t envisaged spending my night in Walkabout but after hearing this particular venue had a roof terrace, I was game.  After all, sitting outside in the rare English sunshine meant I didn’t have to go near any shots or dance on any tables.  And am I glad I dislodged any preconceptions out of my mind.  My night in Walkabout was a pleasant surprise.  Not only did I learn that it’s not all sticky floors, pints of snake bite and far too many drunken companions, I also tasted a bit of Australian culture – well, the national animal anyway.  That’s right, I tucked into a kangaroo salad. Admittedly, visions of me in Australia zoo stroking the joeys did come flooding back, especially when the waitress reminded me that kangaroos were on the Australian currency, but I thought I would embrace the moment anyway – that’s what I did last time after all.  The kangaroo was bloody ace (in my best Australian accent) and the service that came with it was top notch.  Plus, on the roof terrace I could listen to the sound of the birds and the River Thames rather than the familiar cries of Kylie Minogue and Men at Work ....who “come from the land down under”.


Arthur Browne:
Temple Walkabout is certainly jiving on a Monday night - it would appear those £1.50 drink deals are a winner in central London. There was something very pleasant about a few lazy drinks up on the terrace overlooking the river, followed by a descent into a lively space with a vast bar and a healthy mix of drinkers and dancers. What won my stomach over might surprise you. It was neither the Aussie beverages nor the Kangeroo burger - nope, try the most generous slice of chocolate cake seen in many a moon plus two dollops of ice cream. It might have made me feel like I deserved to walk home but it was without doubt a dessert to do the word 'decadent' justice.

Claire Williams:
I must be getting old.

It used to be that Friday was the night to go out. I’d never miss a Friday night in town. I’d get together with the girls – we’d dress, paint our faces and fog the bathroom out with hairspray, deodorant and all manners of toxic ozone destroying sprays – and we’d stagger out (already half-cut, having drunk cheap wine straight from the bottle like the classy girls we are), ready to paint the town bright red.

Then, out of nowhere, Fridays were out (pubs and bars mysteriously empty, save for the resident drunks in the corner who were delighted for our company), and Saturdays were in. No one told us, and like people turning up at the wrong place for the party we continued going out on Friday, dismayed by the lack of people (“has everyone moved? Is Shoreditch no longer cool?”), until by chance we stumbled into the busiest pub on the way back from our ‘Gym Saturdays’ – and didn’t leave until 4 in the morning. (Just as Friday nights out became a thing of the past, so therefore did ‘Gym Saturdays’. And thank God. I’ve never liked the gym.)

And then, with no rhyme or reason, Thursday became the new Friday. Rolling in still drunk Friday morning became acceptable behaviour, and many a grumble was shared over pints of water and soluble aspirin.

So it is – Thursday is the night to go out. I’m used to that. I’ve changed my routine and it makes my week longer. I’m happy. So what is this – I venture out on a Monday night (oh Monday, a night contentedly dedicated to Eastenders and a tub of ice-cream) to meet some Fluid people for a bit of a (quiet, reserved) knees up at the Temple Walkabout venue. And lo and behold, the place is jam packed! Is Monday the new night out?! Do I have to change my routine – yet again?!

Cilla Black Pole Dancing With Dale Winton?


By Anna Parkin

Soho’s chicest gay club, The Shadow Lounge, celebrated its 9th birthday last week with a glittering party for members and VIPs. I felt honoured to be attending the exclusive event as The Shadow Lounge is known for having a strict door policy and, well, being a lady, I wouldn’t be much use to any amorous revellers looking for love.

It was fairly quiet when my guest and I arrived so we managed to blag ourselves a cosy candlelit alcove complete with faux floral decoration. We were in prime position for ogling the handful of merrymakers on the largish dancefloor as they strutted to Ibiza remixes of Kylie, Cheryl Cole and Lady Gaga.

The press release had promised a host of stars would be attending, and I’d been hoping to see famous fag hag Cilla Black pole dancing with a luminous Dale Winton. Instead I got a who’s-who of reality television. Not that I’m complaining, I think I made up about 70% of the viewing figures for Paris Hilton’s Best British Friend.

As we sipped on warm white wine, our alcove got cordoned off with a rope, making us feel like real stars, or at least previous X Factor finalists. We invited the superb comedian Stephen K. Amos (pictured with me here) into our booth for a chuckle, and Australian heartthrob Daniel O’Connor (pictured above) came for a chat to tell us about making the move from soap opera Neighbours to London’s Gymbox where he now works. The scantily-clad waiter kept coming back to remind us we would have to move should a celeb arrive. With a sigh, I got my bag together just as BB9 stud Rex Newmark made his way through the doors.

By this point The Shadow Lounge was brimming with handsome males, generally well-dressed and in their twenties or thirties, although there were a few glamorous women too. The entertainment was in full swing, as the hunky Shadow Lounge dancers took to the stage leaving little to the imagination in their tight gold hotpants. There was gyrating, poking, caressing, licking and even kissing, although not much dancing, during their raunchy performance, which left most of the audience either blushing, laughing or lusting.

After their ‘cheeky’ performance, the dancers descended on the crowd to woo their adoring public. The pop hits kept playing and the cocktails carried on flowing until three in the morning as celebrities and civilians joined forces on the dancefloor, showing those so-called dancers how it’s really done. Roll on next year when The Shadow Lounge hits double figures… Cilla and Dale don’t know what they missed.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Sherlock Is On The Wine


By Rebecca Brett

‘We’ve got a brand new wine list, would you like to come and try the new additions?’ is not a line that I hear that often but when someone did say it I, of course, politely declined. Yeah right, I was there faster than you can say Sauvignon Blanc.

I could even take a +1, so my boyfriend (and fellow wine-lover) and I plodded off to the Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes Hotel with deerstalker and magnifying glass in hand. I was expecting the hotel, which is – of course situated on Baker Street - to have hordes of tourists milling about and taking pictures in the hotel but it was in fact the opposite. The place was a haven from the busy road outside.

We arrived with lots of other wine lovers (or journalists, if you will) to sample the menu. We sat in groups of five, with the bottles of wine just in my sights and only the extremely lovely and very knowledgeable Giles Jenkinson in the way of me grabbing a straw and trying them all by myself. He was there from a company called Matthew Clark – a drinks supplier who supply the Park Plaza chain and who won the International Wine Challenge Awards’ ‘Wine Educator of the Year’ 2009.

So we weren’t just going to get stuck in to the wines. We were going to be educated about them first. Wow, there’s a lot to learn. Grapes, tannins, oak barrels, grape skins, reserves, vineyards, hints and noses… the list goes on. Erm, when can we drink the wine please?

Whoop, here goes – eight wines, three white, four reds and one dessert wine. The first, Cloudy Bay, was already a firm favourite between the two of us so it was good to drink it away from home and with a delicious seared king scallop, pea puree and crispy pancetta. Beats the Doritos we usually tuck in to while drinking the New Zealand white.

Of the other two wines, my favourite was the Klein Zalze Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch, South Africa. There was a red from the same region too. Things got a little hazy after the third glass but if my memory serves me well then I think it was a Pinot Noir, which went deliciously with the roast duck canapé.

This is the thing with wine tasting. I start off being thoroughly interested in every minor detail about the grape, where it came from, who made it, how they made it and then with each glass the interest dwindles. What’s that? Use the spittoon? That’s like tasting a delicious chocolate cake and then spitting it out. Sacrilege.

So with the whites done, I was looking forward to the roses, I’m not a huge fan of the pink stuff but I’ve been to wine tastings before vowing to go straight to the shop and buy the ones we had sampled. But we didn’t try them on the night which I thought was a bit of a shame. So it was on to the reds, I mentioned the Pinot Noir but there was also a Chablis and a Chateau Neuf Du Pape but the best of the bunch (haha) was the Robert Mondavi Napa Cabernet Sauvignon served with a delicious morsel of rib eye steak. Wines like those just increase my wanting of heading to California to bathe in grapes and sunshine.

To wash down a dessert of tarte tatin was the dessert wine, a French Domaine du Seuil Cerons. Dessert wines confuse me somewhat, hardly anyone drinks them and if I’m having a cheese plate I much prefer a ruby port to wash the brie down with. Mixing sweet apples with a sweet wine shouldn’t work but it did.

In fact, it was bloody delicious so when Giles informed us we could stay around afterwards and finish off the wines I went straight for the smallest bottle (unlike me) of the sweet stuff.

With all wines tasted, all bottles emptied and all samples of the menu from the AA Rosette award-winning Sherlock’s Bar and Grill (pictured above) eaten, we staggered off on to the busy Baker Street to go home. One wine tasting: done. One tipsy boyfriend: done. One wishing that the wine tasting included a stay at the four-star boutique hotel: done.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Bond Always Had Good Gadgets


By Anastasia Hancock

24 London: the name says it all. 24 London were the team behind the launch of new Soho nightclub, Bond. Half past six on a very sunny weekday evening, and I stepped off busy London streets awash with post-work tipplers and the early evening commuters into the depths of a nightclub in full swing, complete with DJ, cocktails, and a crowd that looked like it had spent the majority of the day spraying on the fake tan and carefully selecting an outfit that would see then through a hard night’s clubbing. So this is what they mean by ‘24 hour London’.

A couple of delicious cocktails later, all made with the signature Cîroc vodka (interestingly this brand distinguishes itself from your everyday vodka because it’s derived from French grapes), and I could almost believe I had somehow stumbled into a continuum, and it was in fact the early hours of the next morning. Until I went to the ladies, that is, and had to pass by the adjoining coffee shop, bright sunlight beaming through the open doors.

The event was to showcase Bond’s new ‘cutting edge technology’, which featured interactive technology designed to give the ‘wow factor’ to any night out. This involved interactive tabletops allowing punters to send over a ‘virtual’ drink to anyone they took a shine to (I’d prefer an actual drink myself, but perhaps the romance of the gesture is lost on me), while staff take pictures of happy clubbers to upload onto the walls of the club itself. Impressive stuff, if vaguely reminiscent of the waiter-less Asian restaurants dotted around the capital which boast similar computerized dining tables which allow you to order food yourself.

The walls really came into their own, though, during a demonstration of what happens when some flush clubber orders a whole bottle of Cîroc vodka. The watching crowd parted as a suitably leggy waitress walked through the crowd bearing aloft the bottle, just as a low budget son et lumière display lit up the club with images of the brand. Subtle it was not.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Supermarket + Farmers’ Market = Union Market


By Rebecca Brett

When I was younger I used to revel in going to the supermarket with Mum for the weekly shop. It was a chore which my two elder sister’s abhorred, so while they were reading Bunty, kissing/throwing stones at boys or playing Cluedo, I went off with Mum to Tesco – where I buy my best clothes.

Back in the day, all meals were planned for the week and they’d be a huge shopping list that the sisters used to add to… but I was the one who was there, “Oh did you want bourbon cream biscuits… I got custard creams instead.” We’d spend an hour and a half snaking our way up and down the aisles until the trolley was full of treats to fill the fridge, freezer and dry store.

Who does that anymore? Who has time for a weekly shop? Who goes to a supermarket and buys a trolley load for the week. I know that if I did it everything would be gone the next day and I’d have a burning hole in my pocket.

These days, I shop on a daily basis. Not because I am a fat porker but because who knows what I’ll want for dinner on Tuesday let alone tonight. Food shopping still excites me, just like when I was a nipper. Perhaps that’s why I do it every day. My favourite place to food shop is Borough Market; the smells, the freshness, the variety and best of all the way you can try before you buy. Can’t do that at a supermarket, or can you?

Enter Union Market. Bringing the best of both foodie worlds together, supermarket and farmers’ market colliding to make the ultimate in the food-shopping arena.

My friend and I went to the opening of Union Market in Fulham Broadway on a quiet Wednesday night. I was expecting some kind of tented area with farmers selling their wares. How I was wrong. Union Market is where TGI Friday’s used to be, just next to Fulham Broadway tube station. Do you remember the dark and dingy box with ‘crazy’ staff racing around in red and white striped shirts? It’s gone. It’s all gone and in is place is something that you have to see to believe. Low ceilings are gone. Cramped tables are gone. Cocktail bar… it’s gone.

In it’s place is a bright, airy space with high ceilings, nay, windowed ceilings that date back to 1905 – Why Mr TGI would ever cover up the beautiful glass atrium is a myth to me. In place of tables and chairs are food stalls. Fresh charcuterie, a temperature controlled cheese room with fromage from the delectable Neal’s Yard, a bakery, a chocolatier, a colourful fruit and vegetable stall, an antipasti deli, a winery and more… all under one roof.

Imagine the delight on my face when I realised that this was no tent, this was a foodie heaven. Everything we could see before us we could sample. Olive? Don’t mind if I do. Parma ham? Yes please. Fresh baked bread? Go on then. Gin and Tonic? Oh if I must.

Ok so in reality you probably won’t be able to charge in to Union Market demanding free gin, which is amazing by the way (oh, hello Miss Smug) but you should try it via buying a bottle of the stuff, the delightful London-made Sipsmiths Dru Gin.

We made our way around the huge 5000 square foot hall (yep, I measured it) visiting every counter probably more than twice but I wouldn’t like to keep count. And I can safely assure you that after great trials and tribulations that the food here is top notch and the variety of foods I ate you can buy here is phenomenal.

From just-made quiches and sandwiches for lunch to huge hunks of meat and all the veggie trimmings for dinner, and because the store opens at 7am for coffee and bakery goods, you can even go for breakfast. There are even take-out foods for if you are on the go, not the greasy sausage roll or limp chicken wing you get at Asda but the likes of stuffed aubergines, chicken thighs stuffed with orange and rosemary or fishcakes rolled in breadcrumbs. I’ll take them all please.

But it wasn’t just the food that impressed us, the people who worked there were incredible. The chocolate provider was no Thornton’s pro; Damian Allsop is a chocolate God whose previous experience includes working as executive pastry chef at Gordon Ramsay’s The Aubergine and Giorgio Locatelli’s Locanda Locatelli. And you could say his chocolate is healthy, that’s what I told myself anyway- while I was shoving barrel-loads in to my mouth, because Allsop uses water (yep good old H20) instead of cream to make his delicious bites of heaven.

As I said before, the cheese comes direct from Neal’s Yard. Now I don’t know who Neal is but he’s sure done a good job of training up the guys who work behind the counter. We got talking to Rachel – a student who applied for the job as cheesemonger without having any real interest in cheese. After a half day course and some extra training here and there she is now the proud owner of cheese knowledge like nothing I have known before. She could tell us how it is made, why they have the texture/flavour/smell they do, where they were made, she probably even knew the cow’s name that made it but we didn’t press her for the information. Daisy, I imagine.

So they know their stuff, they’ve got the right stuff and it will make you stuffed. As we were walking in, the guy on the olive counter joked that they weigh you when you go in and again when you leave, charging you for the extra weight you have added. Thankfully they didn’t. Hello over-the-overdraft – oh how I’ve missed you.

We were told that there is also a state of the art kitchen that will be providing freshly prepared food at the very centre of the store. Although it was so busy for the opening that the throngs of people were probably standing in the spot where the likes of weekend brunches, cream teas, full English breakfasts, light lunches or a glass of wine would be served.

It’s too bad, I’ll have to go back and see what the place looks like on a normal day. I don’t mind, I have to shop every day after all.

With Union Market, shopping just ain’t what it used to be. I’m just looking forward to the next opening and hoping it’s somewhere closer to home. Balham Union Market please.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Mastering the art of dim sum with Angela Malik



By Rebecca Brett

Last week I had the pleasure of a hot and sweaty tube ride to Acton. I didn’t realise how far west it actually is, nor did I realise what a quaint little high street it has.

It seems as though things in Acton, home of the first ever Waitrose, are a-changing. Nestled between a quirky pub with hordes of punters outside and a trendy artesian bakery is the Angela Malik school and shop.

Peeping in through the window, what at first looks like a traditional English tea shop selling cakes and picnic sets turns out to be a mix up of the aforementioned with flavours of the eastern world. Then tucked away at the back is a kitchen, ready for beginners or people wanting to learn more about conventional Asian cookery.
And this is where I fitted in, being an absolute novice when it comes to the world of creating dim sum, I was there to meet Angela and cook up a storm in the kitchen. Either that, or make the kitchen look like a storm had hit it.

Angela Malik, an alumni of Leiths, and with valuable experience at Bibendum and Vong, is the lady behind the school. Asian food and teaching people about Asian food is what she is passionate about, so after making her mark as a chartered accountant, she realised that the daily grind of a 9-5 wasn’t for her and in 2005 shut the numbers shop up and started working towards the shop of her dreams. Looks like dreams come true.

After a wander around the little shop checking out the mix of cordials, chutneys, jams, breads, cheese and crackers with the Asian influence of poppadoms,
Indian pesto herbs, spices, noodles and fish sauce, it was time to start cooking.

The initial part of the lesson was a little tedious, talking about the different taste sensations on the tongue… salt, sweet etc. Hmmm, I think I did that at primary school. But it all makes sense when Angela tries to include all of these taste sensations with every mouthful when she cooks. Something that I took for granted before the class started.

Pinafore on and we’re ready to start cooking, all the ingredients are set out in front of us for the first lesson of steamed spiced pork and water chestnut siu mai dumplings. Sounds hard. Is not.

Using a bamboo steamer, something that I’ve had at home for years but never used for fear of setting it on fire, Angela went through firstly mixing together all the ingredients for the fillings then stuffing a small amount in to wonton wrappers then putting in to the steamer over hot water for ten minutes until cooked through. In the words of the meerkat from the adverts – ‘simples.’

Next up, stuffed Gyoza dumplings. The same principal goes with the mixing but we learnt different techniques for sealing the dumplings in gyoza skins then cooking them by frying and then steaming. This does involve throwing water on to hot fat, which should come with a burns warning, but the result is just as delicious as the previous ones.

I’m used to eating at the likes of Yauatcha, Dim T and Ping Pong and what I usually eat at this venues was right in front of me. And I made them! I couldn’t believe how simple it was to make dim sum. OK, so we had a chef extraordinaire there to help us but the thought of going home to recreate the little mouthfuls of deliciousness doesn’t seem so daunting now.

Bamboo basket, here I come.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Chap Advice: 3 Surefire Ways To Snare A Hottie


By Christian Rose-Day.

So, in honour of our new Hot Girl Top 10 Bars, Clubs, Pubs & Restaurants, here are three supplementary ideas to help a young chap in the pursuit of London’s finest fillies.

(1) Does a ratio of 70:30 women to men sound enticing enough? Then you need to get yourself down to one of the fun Blitz Parties that happen at Shoreditch Studios every month or so (pictured above and right). Every single lady there is not just hot, but vintage hot. Perfect rolled hair, pencil lined calves, thick red lipstick and more polka dots than you could shake a stick at. Plus, you get to wear a whole tub of Brylcreem and sport a genuine moustache. Guaranteed good times, and you don’t need to be a mathematicians or statisticians to realise that this is a no-brainer in the numbers game.

(2) Wheeler's of St James's, the Italian restaurant masterminded by celebrity chef Marco Pierre White and hotelier Sir Rocco Forte, has recently opened its bar to non-diners. Nothing too sexy about that, you might assume. That is until you find out that an actual real life model agency hosts drinks here every other Wednesday, attended by actual real life models. See you Wednesday then!

(3) A good mate of mine passed this little tip onto me after successfully completing it himself. It’s crafty, but it works, allegedly. You need to get yourself along to one of the larger, more established gay nights at places like Shadow Lounge, Heaven, or Fire, preferably with one or two of your gay mates. You need to make sure you go on a night which welcomes girls (or faghags, for want of a better word) because they will have their guard down and you’ll find it really easy to chat with them. They will then see you as a ‘challenge’ to be converted and if you play the hetero-curious cards right, c’est voila!

Images courtesy of professional photographer, Julian Dodd.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Farringdon’s New Lounge Bar


By Leo Owen

“No matter where you are in London it takes at least half an hour to get anywhere,” a rule I recall being informed of when I first moved to the city and one that was proved incorrect for the first time this evening. Entering the postcode for Eastside Inn into Google Maps I am pleasantly surprised when I realise it's a mere 15 minute walk from my current abode and a direct one at that.

Virtually arriving as the celebrations kick off, I am amazed by how busy the venue is already. To the right of the main restaurant is the entrance to this new, more intimate, light and airy lounge bar – a long thin room heavy on the wood, mirrors and soft lighting all clad out in mulberry and black. Naturally gravitating to the bar, little sis and I begin with the house speciality cocktail, the Amelie. Unfortunately, there's only one “mixologist” (strangely reminiscent of a more adept Manuel), so the wait for drinks is noticeable, but then this is the launch night and he has his work cut out. I'm certain it wont be like this every night. Occupying myself, surveying the room, I am amused by the unnaturally high number of suited men clutching pretty coloured cocktails in martini glasses, some looking a tad self-conscious.

Never one blessed for my ability to sip a drink, my Bacardi, strawberry, cucumber, honey and Prosecco concoction has slyly slipped itself down my throat within minutes and I'm eager for the next. These things are delish! Upping the stakes seems like a good game plan, so to save hassling the chap behind the bar too often, we order two drinks each. A Butterfly Martini, Smokey Rose, Goa and Jungle Fever are among the deceptively strong culprits that later leave me wishing I'd stuck to one drinks order at a time; The arrival of a monstrously huge bottle of Rose, which is making the rounds, makes decisions about what to sip next even more tempting.

There are a few tasty but scarce canapés circling the room, and we sample soft goats cheese and rabbit on French toast, shredded pork croquettes, vegetable spring rolls and spinach cheese pockets. I begin to wish I could eat more of them as I sink lower into my comfortable window seat.

Eastside Inn’s new addition is aptly categorised a “lounge bar” (background music quietly discernible over the natter of chatter). As the minutes pass, I’ve certainly become a lounger and am pleased to stumble, grinning, into the cool air and begin the uncharacteristically brief journey home towards my bed.

Spain V The Netherlands, The Final: The Ultimate World Cup Pub (bar & restaurant) Crawl


By Anthony Lord

So it's over and done with for another four years. And apologies to all those loyal readers out there for only getting the final blog up a couple of days after the final match, but these last 30 days have taken their toll. It's taken me over a day and a half to recover from one of the best sporting experiences of my life.

It's apt that I get to blog about the final of the 2010 World Cup for the Fluid World Cup Pub Crawl seeing that I was the one who kicked off the binge in what seems ages ago, but it was only 11 June. Since then many great venues have been visited, hundreds of pints supped, and many a South African themed snack munched on in the name of 'research'.

As a South African, that opening game for me was a biggie, but alas the The Horatia didn't deliver. In contrast, The Walkabout at Temple was pumping for the final. The story starts three weeks back when my housemate and me ventured out on a Sunday to watch Brazil's final group game. We'd heard the The Walkabout at Temple was popular with Brazilians, and the rumours were right. ‘Twas a good night. That night we met a couple of lovely Spanish ladies, and we partied Brazilian style together. But they reckoned the Spanish can party better. We were sceptical, so agreed to meet up for the Spain's next game. And boy were they right.

Fast forward to the day of the final, and a promise made that if Spain got to the final, we'd watch with our Spanish beauties, wherever they wanted to watch. And guess what, they chose The Walkabout at Temple. We got there after 5.30pm and there was already a queue. But admittedly that's where the party started. The Spaniards in London were up for this, chanting Matadors, vuvuzelas, and even the passing cars hooting.

It was packed in the main bar, so we went to the smaller, second bar. Nice and cool for this heat wave, no waiting at the bar, easy access to the toilets, and to be honest, sure there wasn't the atmosphere as there was in the main bar, but the actual game wasn't much to talk about so where we were was perfect.

When Spain scored, and when the match ended, mayhem erupted. We rushed to the main bar singing songs I didn't understand; I just wanted to join in. After the trophy was handed over we went outside to continue the party. Embankment had come to a standstill; cars struggled to get down the road.

We decided to go have a look at Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly, and I'm glad we did. Both were heaving with jubilant Spanish. Swimming in fountains and climbing up statues, might as well have been in Madrid.

All in all, a great way to end a great tournament. It was also fitting to end Fluid London’s Ultimate World Cup Pub Crawl in what is probably the best venue to watch sport in London. You are always guaranteed enjoying whatever game you are watching with fans from the countries involved. And that is what London is all about.

Bring on Fluid Brazil!

Camden’s New Roof Terrace

Words by Greg Hall. Images by Julian Dodd

If Al Gore were to jump off the tube at Mornington Crescent looking for a good time
in his glad rags, it would probably warm the cockles of his heart to know he can schmooze on the recycled roof terrace at KOKO, one of London’s prime hotspots.

In fact, Mr. Gore would find the launch of the Lounge Bar’s outdoor area to be a convenient truth if he fancies some fresh air to go with his drink. As a general idea; the creation of the patio area makes some welcome room from the crowded, dimly lit, yet lavish lounge. However the environmental twist has made this move much more benevolent. The use of regenerated rubber tiling (made from car and truck tyres) has without doubt never been placed in such a funky setting. I’m also sure that it had never been adorned with such a diverse display of flamboyant footwear as it was the other Friday night.

KOKO doesn’t stand alone in having eco-aware policies. Numerous venues in London are following this fashion. Some more progressively than others; Surya has its own solar and wind turbine system and is literally powered by the dancing feet of clubbers. The phrase ‘dance till you drop’ has never had such monumental ramifications.

But getting back to KOKO; in what has become a splendid British summer, this inaugural al fresco event held at altitude was tinged with opulent imagery as a balmy night drew in over the capital. The born again balcony gleamed under the memorable KOKO sign, as the prominent haze of purple lighting shimmered on the wondrous white walls, bouncing down on us rooftop revellers while we overlooked the ever constant ebb and flow of the lumbering urban landscape. So yeah, it was a pretty decent place to have a beer.

On an aesthetically understated, sleek veranda, the atmospherics were average. However, things livened up in the adjacent Lounge Bar as the handball hoopla and penalty shootout drama of the World Cup Quarter final between Ghana and Uruguay broke out like an intense rash.

Passers by would have heard the groans of oohs and ahhs in harmonious unison from the top of KOKO as Africa’s popular Black Stars were blighted by the Gods of football. Their spot kick demise to the South Americans was a process of elimination that we English are too well accustomed.

It may not have been as riveting as the gig nights that KOKO is well known for, but it’s hard not to have fun in this luxurious labyrinth. I think a shout out has to go out to my friend Luke’s tattoos. Emblazoned across his forearms in decadent Roman lettering and numerals are his name and date of birth, and no he doesn’t have amnesia. They always seem to attract attention from randoms. I have dubbed these beauties; ‘The ICE BREAKERS’. At KOKO, just like on many night outs, they encouraged banter filled small talk which always tends to be fruitful. On this occasion the fruits bared were shots on the house and an invite to a private party upstairs. All in all this typifies the sort of enjoyment one can have in KOKO, as it attracts a laidback, upbeat youthful crowd.

We should all coco that the environment is a pressing prevalent issue. KOKO certainly knows it, though the primary aim for them is to provide an entertaining evening out.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Platform Cider Tasting


By Leo Owen

Pacing outside WHSmith in London Bridge Station, I can't help but feel the irony of the text message I sent some 40 minutes earlier, warning my now very late date, that I myself was running a few minutes over. I'm starting to worry I'll miss the highlight of the start of a busy evening but thankfully Kirsty arrives and we rush, just making the beginning of the presentation and cider tasting.

As a huge cider fan and a bit of a self-confessed “cider snob” (I hear mistaken cries of “Surely that doesn't exist!?”), I almost pulverised my mousepad hitting “send” in response to the press release. Luckily for me, farmer Barney Butterfield produces a mouth-watering range of ciders and co-owns Platform where some of these gems are served up. Proud of recently being awarded best Scrumpy at the CAMRA awards (Campaign For Real Ale), Barney is keen to explain the cider-making process and some of its history, in order to dispel some of the myths surrounding one of the oldest, most natural tipples.

Ushered upstairs into a room with a farmhouse feel, we circle Barney, sitting in small groups around tables with swilling vats, glasses and water. An impressive wine rack holder takes up most of the back wall but it's the bottles on the table behind Barney that most interest me.

Our first taste is of the Devon Scrumpy, fermented in modern conditions using the most expensive way of pressing apples, this is a clean simple milky honey-coloured cider. Vastly preferable to the average carbonated shite found in most pubs, the Scrumpy may be 0.5% stronger but isn't a patch on the Old Kirton.

Barney warns us that, being straw-pressed, it might not be to everyone’s taste and he's not wrong to put out the disclaimers as it's certainly an acquired taste. Having done the rounds at CAMRA festivals, the artificial toxic colour reminiscent of an orange Panda Pop doesn't perturb me and the sharp acidic initial taste with a stomach-rotting vinegar bite that inexplicably turns to sweetness is bizarrely satisfying. It seems both my companion and I are the 1:10 people Barney normally finds appreciative of this strange beverage – perhaps a clue to the source of our friendship.

Suitably wooed, Barney pulls out the perception-challenger, the Vintage “2 Year Strong Cider”. Fermented in old rum barrels with smells reminiscent of Whisky and the Caribbean, at 8% it's smoother than the previous offering and more of a treat cider, served in a screw top wine bottle.

The final two ciders are more familiar fare for the stereotypical dirty white cider drinker but only in that they are fizzy. Shaky Bridge is a filtered Scrumpy sweetened with sugar that smells and tastes like pure apple juice or Appletiser, while Redvers Buller is a 6% blend of the straw-pressed and Vintage, smelling of Refreshers and aiming to please less adventurous cider drinkers.

Barney recounts sampling 130 ciders when judging at the 11 County Cider Show and we're suddenly worried; our empty stomachs are no match for his potentially lethal produce and as much as I want more, I need food – luckily, downstairs an array of food especially devised to complement the drinks awaits.

Leaving the farm, we enter a trendy chilled-out zone, our speedy entry somehow concealed; Zero 7 perfectly harmonisers with plush but simple décor, combining a luxurious long wooden bar, comfy chairs, a kitsch frieze, giant disco ball and inventive light shades – old bird cages covered in mesh jersey fabric. Being a fashion enthusiast, Kirsty is particularly taken with the lights, recalling modelling for Henry Moore's family some years earlier at Kew Gardens wearing a similar material, in order to appear mummy-like.

A chatty vegan hands out delicious cocktail sausages stuffed with mash, mini cheeseburgers and pork and apple sandwiches. Approving of Kirsty's distaste for meat, she swings the bubble and squeak, sun-dried tomato crackers, fried courgettes and frozen apple crush our way and we're soon supping on cider again. Clearly proud of his produce, and rightly so, Barney introduces himself and an animated discussion begins about how cider is defined and the need for reclassification.

By the end of the evening Barney knows more about worldwide cider availabilities and I finally understand why the producers of mainstream ciders liked Strongbow, Magners and Bulmers push for their tasteless ciders to be served chilled. Leaving Platform for the next item on our ambitious agenda, having tasted Barney's cider range, I almost wish I'd been born a West Country worker with half my salary paid in cider.

For more information, check out www.sandfordorchards.co.uk.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Spain V Germany: The Ultimate World Cup Pub (bar & restaurant) Crawl



By Cat McGovern

I’ve often walked past Bistro K, power walking my way to Hummingbird Bakery and Snog at South Kensington. I’ve always been intensely intrigued but never actually ventured in, until now. Fortunately tonight I’m watching the football here, so I can see what really goes on within. Tables sit on the terrace and overlook the busy Old Brompton Road with a huge white parasol protecting customers from the elements. Pushing open the glass doors, we enter into a sleek and surprisingly very big venue with beautiful front windows that make it easy to people-watch whilst eating.

We go to our table, which is right in front of the 50-inch plasma screen, and order some wine. I try to pronounce it and fail, so instead feebly point at it on the menu and hope for the best. The boyfriend scoffs, “Well, it’s Gewürztraminer obviously.”

“Riiiight. OK, yes, that please.”

It’s quite an unusual wine, hectic in flavour and aroma. Lychee, kiwi and honey scented, almost like a dessert wine, it really is an interesting tipple.

When the bread is placed on our table, I let the boyfriend chomp it because everyone knows that if you eat bread on an empty stomach, you fill up too quickly. I watch him take delight in every morsel. I’m jealous, so I cave, and take some myself. You know a place is going to be good when the bread is spectacular. Whoops, just got through three bits, better slow down.

Our starters arrive just in time before I’m given the chance to eat all the bread. I’ve gone with crab salad, whereas the boyfriend has a cucumber gazpacho. Both are very professionally presented and I dig in eagerly. The salad is light with a tang of acidity in the dressing. The smooth avocado mousse blends excellently with the crab. The juxtaposition of the delicate flaked crab with the crunchy vegetables is sublime. I peer over at the gazpacho longingly. The boyfriend takes pity on me and offers me a bit. Essentially it’s a cucumber soup with ribbons of cucumber and a horseradish cream; a perfect summer dish.

3 minutes into the match and there’s a pitch invader. ‘Wa-hay!’ shouts the boyfriend.

The mains are presented to us without much time to breathe: organic poached salmon and stuffed chicken breast. The salmon tastes so pure, it’s quite simply the best salmon I have ever had. Already great on its own, the addition of the hollandaise really brings the fish alive. Their accompaniments, crushed potatoes served in a brass pot, are amazing. The chives, butter, and sea salt make for a great potato treat.

I’m not even three bites into my main and the boyfriend’s wine, which goes with his chicken, is placed on the table. I say placed, I mean poured all over my back and my main. And it’s red wine. I am sufficiently soaked from my hair to my hips and they don’t even have hand dryers! I soldier on and a replacement main is brought out, thank goodness it’s so wonderful or I might’ve walked out in a huff. Unfortunately, during this kerfuffle, the boyfriend has eaten his main. Greedy so and so, but I try some of the fancy sauce that he’s left behind: a foie gras foam that is rich and indulgent, two things I really like.

I look up occasionally to see what’s going on in the football, and the answer is: not much. The boyfriend agrees and digs deep into his strawberry panna cotta, served in a martini glass. It’s very sweet with a layer of strawberry on top and a fluffy vanilla mousse beneath. The second dessert, the raspberry soufflé, is not as impressive as the other dishes. Although it is cooked perfectly, I don’t think the tartness of the raspberry is fitting for a soufflé.

By half time, we’ve already eaten our whole meal. All served speedily with little time to contemplate. Fortunately for me, all dishes have been very light because normally by dessert I am crying for the food to stop coming. But in this case, I am content.

An Irish coffee cocktail somehow makes its way to our table and, as I’m not a fan of coffee, I politely take a sip and subtly move it over to the boyfriend.

As we’re finished and I’m more than a bit wet, we decide to head off and catch the second half at home. Hopefully it will be more exciting this half, let’s wait and see.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Proud Cabaret’s New Look

By Faye Armstrong

Is it considered weird to exit a party without broadly announcing your departure? I was informed by my friend Claire that my stealthy disappearance from such an event a few weeks back was seen as socially odd and had been a topic of conversation ever since.

In my opinion, reluctance to make a big deal out of leaving a party is common. Those who practice it wish not to create an air of mystique, but are rather just abiding by the assumption that none of the assembled gives a hoot about whether they stay or go, which renders any goodbye completely unnecessary. To loudly state you’re leaving with a comprehensive goodbye presumes that others care about your presence. For those who are the charismatic epicentre of a party, whose absence would be felt, this may be a truth, but for those of us who loiter on the sidelines it makes sense to make a peripheral exit if you only play a peripheral role.

And so, batting back-and-forth our ideas of what is considered appropriate party etiquette, Claire and I entered into yet another minefield of rules; this time not a friend’s birthday party but a showcase evening at one of London’s most treasured supper-clubs: Proud Cabaret.

Decadence at it’s very best, Proud Cabaret is a portal to a 1920s speakeasy and makes a point of dragging its guests out of their 21st Century London stupor into a sea of tassel shaking burlesque, cabaret, and jazz.

The showcase evening had basically been devised to show off the redesigned venue (what’s that they say? If you’ve got it, flaunt it?) as well as its principal for being: the updated entertainment.

I was seated front and centre (not my usual tangential spot) and as the feather yielding entertainment came at me I had to war with my primal instinct to commence flight. Staying glued to my chair, I was eventually glad to be so close, minus the feather-to-face incident.

Close proximity meant that I missed not a second of the show: hula, en pointe burlesque, scarily good dancing from the Globe Girls, and a drag queen cabaret act who performed Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’ better than the former Destiny’s Child star herself.

I managed to divert my eyes from the spotlight antics and take note of the venue itself. It’s dark and it’s obtrusively furtive. It’s a strange exercise in nostalgia for the days of Prohibition and yet it’s nothing like how a true 1920s speakeasy would be. The sought-after hideouts of that time would have attempted to be as inconspicuous as possible; a few chairs, a few tables, perhaps a few posters on the walls. These places didn’t want to be found, didn’t want to be loud. Proud is loud, and proudly so. It’s intemperate, with luxurious purple velveted booths, an expensive (well it looked expensive) wooden floor and heavy floor-to-ceiling drapes. The white linen tablecloths showed no sign of creases and the heavily framed mirrors reflected images of wrought iron screens and imposing candlesticks. The surroundings were as spectacular as the show itself.

A few glasses of champagne and more than my fair share of canapé tasters later, and it was time to leave. As growing up is all about building an arsenal of graceful moves, and no longer wanting my personality to be illegible to the world, I decided there was no other alternative but to smile awkwardly, wave my hand in a rhapsodic gesture, and mouth the word ‘bye’ to the congregated Proud staff. My reward was a jumble of sentiments encouraging me to “come again” and “don’t stay away too long”. I may never be the centre of attention but the nice Proud folk certainly believe that the peripherals - and all who occupy its space -are part of the bigger picture.

Bringing BYOB up to date

By Kelly Parsons
 
Bring Your Own Booze: conjure up an image of the local curry house?  Those associations will soon be consigned to the restaurant dustbin of history if wine lovers, Khadine and Christopher Rose, have their way. 
 
They have persuaded some of London’s leading restaurants – 50 at the latest count – to sign up to their recently-launched brainchild, BYO wine club, and allow wine enthusiasts to bring their own special bottles for no, or a substantially reduced, corkage fees. 
 
Restaurants already on their growing list include perennial favourites like Angelus, L’Oranger, Le Cafe du Marche, Wodka, Boisdale, and Le Cafe Anglais, to top Michelin-rated eateries such as Tom Aikens (pictured here), Apsleys at The Lanesborough and Rasoi Vineet Bhatia.

For restaurants, listing on byowineclub.com is free, but by invitation only, and they must meet the club’s high quality standards. The founders expect to have over one hundred participating across London by the end of 2010.
 
“My husband and I were thinking about how wonderful it would be to bring a favourite bottle of wine from our collection to dinner at some of London’s best restaurants.  After speaking with a few restaurant industry friends, BYO Wine Club was born,” explains co-founder Khadine Johnson Rose, who has a background in the drinks business, having worked as a brand ambassador for Remy Martin and several Diageo brands.
 
While the club is undeniably aimed at reducing the costs of eating and drinking out, it is a far cry from the traditional concept of sticking a bottle of cheap plonk or a few tins of beer in a carrier bag and rocking up to a low end restaurant which can’t afford an alcohol licence.  This new take on BYO is aimed at diners who want to drink fine wines but resent the significant mark-ups charged by decent eateries, which often mean they will drink far better wine at home than they do when out for a meal. To that end, annual membership costs just under £100 a year, although there is currently a special launch rate of £75.
 
So what’s in it for the restaurants? Surely wine is one of their biggest money-spinners?  Clearly the impact of the economic downturn has forced many to get a bit more creative in an attempt to fill empty tables. “Participating restaurants can attract and retain wine enthusiasts - a high-spending restaurant-going audience,” says Rose. Some venues also impose restrictions in their listings, including a corkage fee (typically between £5 and £15), minimum spend, weekdays only and other limitations. 
 
The club also provides a set of clear etiquette tips and common sense do’s and don’ts for members to abide by. It’s absolutely forbidden to bring homemade wine or boxed wine, beer, cider, alcopops or spirits. Other recommendations include discreetly presenting your bottle of wine to the Maître d' or wait staff, preferably in the tote provided to members on joining, or at the very least discarding any carrier bags or other packaging before entering the restaurant and presenting the bottle on its own. 
 
Rose also says members should endeavor to bring wines on par with at least some of the wines on the restaurant's own list. “If you feel the need to bring a truly inexpensive bottle, it's best to do so at a comparably inexpensive restaurant,” she says. She suggests that, where possible, members should avoid bringing exactly the same wine that is on the restaurant's list. “Also, consider offering the sommelier a taste of your wine - it's just a nice thing to do,” she adds.