Thursday, 30 September 2010

Trafalgar For Hardy Malaysian Souls

By Anastasia Hancock

Ah, Nasi Goreng, Nasi Lemak, Roti Canai, Satay, all washed down with steaming Teh Tarik. The mere mention of the dishes conjures up images of bustling KL streets filled with vendors selling steaming street food, azure-blue seas lapping onto fine white sand on Langkawi beaches, cloud-tipped mountains providing cool respite from the blazing heat in the Cameron highlands….

If only. In fact, Friday night saw hoards of hungry Malaysiaphiles braving a very grey and drizzly Trafalgar Square in search of a little taste of South-East Asian flavour in the heart of London.

It was surprising to note just how many hardy souls clamouring for Malay delights you can fit into one small area. Apparently, there are almost 50,000 Malaysians living in the capital. It seems as though the vast majority had turned up to celebrate their country in style.

The event was the brainchild of celebrity chef Jason Atherton (the former Executive Chef at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze), the deputy mayor, and the Malaysian High Commissioner. The aim was to put together an authentic Malaysian Pasar Malam created by Malaysian Kitchen to showcase some genuine cuisine. The result was a good few dozen colourful stalls running around the circumference of Trafalgar Square offering punters the choice of pretty much any Malay delicacy they wanted. There were a number of popular eateries represented, including Awana, Bintang and Kiasu, all swamped from start to finish.

The huge stage in the middle of the square hosted an array of exotic performers, and was roundly and noisily appreciated by a throbbing crowd of groupies for most of the night, while the queues for the food stalls themselves was stomach-growlingly massive. If the organisers want to avoid a mass stampede next year, this is definitely something that needs to be addressed.

However, it didn’t seem to matter when I had eventually shuffled (read; pushed and scratched) my way to the front of the queue, happily reeling off an order that would have fed most of Penang. Funny how the perpetual drizzle stopped mattering, and the cold granite of the fountains that I was using as my dining table suddenly seemed perfect for the job once I was perched on it spooning steaming Malaysian chicken curry into my mouth and dreaming of the tropics.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

New Kensington Restaurant; A Match For Mayfair?

By David Derby

Thali, the Kensington restaurant formerly known as Bar Asian (RFKABA), celebrated its rebranding last week with a reception for the cream of London’s food journalists. Fluid was first in, securing privileged access to management and the representative samples on offer.

The chef, who trained with the Taj Group and previously worked at Bombay Brasserie, has been granted a glimpse of owner-operator Vikash Dhawan’s family recipe book and asked to stick closely to the script. The result is North Indian dishes with a depth of flavour and sophistication of spicing that announce serious intent. Vikash is clearly proud of the Palak Chaat, in which spinach is given a dry marinade, fried and then left to dry out. Somewhat eccentrically, what we were invited to try was, however, neither this nor much else on the opening menu. Instead, we had Achari Salmon, a Lamb Boti Kebab in a garum massala, Padron peppers stuffed with chicken, and sesame-encrusted prawns. Extrapolating from this limited selection, it seems likely that Thali will be considering the likes of Tamarind and Benares as its immediate competition. Naturally, the “signature” dish is the eponymous Thali, which comes in vegetarian and non-vegetarian formats. Otherwise, amongst more familiar dishes, there is a Venison Bhuna and Tandoori Rabbit – a welcome nod to fashion.

The décor at 166 Old Brompton Road was already fit for purpose – waxed blue and white walls, a few well-chosen Asian artifacts – and this remains unchanged. The lounge bar in the basement is attractive. In a neighbourly and generous way, Vikash displays sculpture by young artists in the space vacated by the coal cellar under the pavement. It’s a nice touch – stylish and differentiating.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Porno Shots at Oktoberfest

By Cat McGovern

There are a few things in life that will make my grumpy Scottish boyfriend cheerier; whisky, giant beers and sausages. Fortunately, the Bavarian Beerhouse in Old Street can help out with two out of the three and that’s where we’re heading this evening, on a school night. Oh dear.

It’s the opening of Oktoberfest, which means wursts, many steins of beers, an oompah band, and the all female dirndl staff dressed in traditional Bavarian attire. The boyfriend is eager to start so we arrive a little early; descending the stairs into a basement where all the festivities will commence. There is only a scattering of people. As part of our ticket, we receive a free stein of beer, so we cash them in straight away to get down with the party vibe.

We are placed at a table with other journos, who keep themselves to themselves. The steins arrive and we glug away happily. As we are basically in The City, it’s no surprise when a twenty strong group of city boys bowl in, making a racket and causing a fuss. I look about and realise that the inhabitants of the Bavarian Beerhouse are basically all city types. Normally I try my best to avoid places where these people go - they can grate the soul - but for tonight I will join in with their environment and hope for the best.

First stein down for the boyfriend and he feels it’s wise to get some food, if we want to last the night and avoid a stonking hangover in the morning. The currywurst with fries and sharing platter for two seems like the best option and are quite bargainous. He orders another stein, this time a brown one. I’m still working on my first.

What is admirable about the Bavarian Beerhouse is the flawless service. It is all table service and when you want a beer it is with you within a minute. There’s no mucking about. You see some of the girls bringing over six steins at a time, which impresses all the boys to say the least.

Engrossed in my beer, I fail to notice the two man oompah band serenading our table; one with guitar and the other with an accordion. Our table is not particularly receptive to their music, so they move on to the boys who get up and dance with them, shouting and whooping as they go. They start to bang their steins on the table to the beat of the music and everyone follows suit.

Before I know it, the boyfriend is on stein number three. I decide that I will abandon mine, as it is warm and flat, and order a girly white wine spritzer instead. It arrives in a pint glass. I can see where this night is going.

The spritzer is gone in a flash and I encourage the boyfriend to do a shot with me, but not a run-of-the-mill boring shot: a Porno-Brause. No, not a porn shot, you dirty hussies, a sherbet shot! You empty a small packet of flavoured sherbet into your mouth, wait until it fizzes and then down the shot. It is definitely a more pleasant way to do shots. We have another three and it dawns on us it’s Thursday not Friday and tumble outside.

With the faint taste of apple sherbet lingering in my mouth, we get the tube back West, confident that we will return at a more suitable time. Let’s hope the hangover isn’t too savage.

Curious to find out where the best beer pubs and bars are in London? Those pubs and bars that serve an encyclopedic wealth of beers and ales and lagers and stouts? Then simply follow this link and the Top 10 shall be revealed.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Chick Flicks in Shoreditch

By Gabrielle Sander

A £12 trip to the cinema (prices in London currency) will get you one adult ticket plus either part of a tub of popcorn, a cup of not-quite-as-nice-as-a-can-of-Coca-Cola pop, or about six penny sweets. This level of restraint doesn’t exist in the real world, so you’ll inevitably blow about 20 quid each on a load of ulcer-inducing food and drink and probably end up wishing you’d waited for the film to come out on DVD instead.

Perhaps that’s just me. The point to my little rant is that if you head down to The Drunken Monkey bar in Shoreditch on every third Wednesday of the month, you can catch a film, some freshly made dim sum, and a comfortable, un-flip-uppable seat, all for £12. Or less, because the films are screening for free. The £12 is for the special set menu, so really – if you’re savvy (read ‘skint’) like me – you could grab some crisps and a beer and settle down for an even cheaper night out.

The newly-launched Chick Flick evenings kick off at 8pm and feature a range of films from Grease to Sex and the City. Not the current Box Office chart toppers, but a good selection of pleasers all the same. Men are allowed too, though the testosterone-fuelled Karate Film Nights The Drunken Monkey is planning to launch might be more up their street.

My friend Victoria and I headed to the Breakfast at Tiffany’s screening last Wednesday. Stopping off in the red lit bar upstairs first for an after work catch-up and a couple of drinks. We headed downstairs to watch the film just after the opening credits had rolled, which meant that the only seats available were at a booth in the corner. We had a partially obstructed view of the big screen – there’s a smaller one too but it was behind us – and struggled to hear properly over a noisy fan. Everyone else, a relaxed bunch of about 30-odd people in their 20s and 30s, were all comfortably settled in to much better positioned seats and seemed to be happily tucking into the numerous dishes, delivered by the on the ball waitresses going and back and forth attentively throughout the eve.

Going along with the girls’ night out theme, we ordered a couple of cocktails. They start at a low end city price of just over £6 which, for the massive and really delicious Pineapple Monkey Mojito we had each, was very reasonable. The aforementioned 10 piece set menu featured a selection from their main menu, also a good deal, though with prices ranging £3.50-£5 per dish it wouldn’t break the bank to sway from that. We sampled the steamed King Prawn Dumplings – so good we ordered another round; Chilli Salt Fried Squid, Duck Spring Rolls and a couple of Sticky Rice Parcels with Chicken and Pork – all really fresh, non-greasy and moorish.

Despite our partially obstructed view, we did actually enjoy ourselves and would head there again. It’s a great concept, but I advise getting there early. Upcoming Chick Flicks include When Harry Met Sally (Oct 20th), Sex and the City (Nov 17th) and The Holidays (Dec 1st).

Check out The Drunken Monkey bar in Shoreditch.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Paint Pot Cocktails & New Look Soho Bar

By Cat McGovern

It’s 6pm and I am waiting for my friend, Ro, to arrive. I am standing in a queue at Urban Outfitters on Oxford Street, waiting to be let in. Ro meets me in said queue and stands patiently. The rope falls and we all pile down the stairs. I discovered that Vogue’s Fashion’s Night Out is on the same day as the Graphic launch party and as the party doesn’t start until 7.30pm, it means we have ample time to shop, drink and eat. Ingenious!

We glide between Dotty P, River Island, Gap, Banana Republic and Oasis, seizing all the free treats along the way. On our travels we win a £50 voucher each from Oasis. Today is a good day.

Having been sufficiently fed and watered, the time has come to go to Graphic. We navigate the streets of Soho with trepidation, and we are a little tipsy, so one wrong turn can put us in the completely wrong direction. Thank God for iPhones.

At Graphic our names are crossed off the list as we excitedly enter. The place is completely jammed packed, but we manage to nab a couple of leather stools at the front. A rather fetching lady wanders about, with what appears to be paint pots. We catch her eye and she comes over and places two pots on the table. I, perplexed, ask what she has given us, and she responds by saying ‘Yellow’. I think, ‘gosh am I really out of touch with cocktails? I cannot appear to not be in the know.’ I politely smile and look to Ro for assistance. She, thankfully, is as confused as me. Fortunately a menu is on the table and we discover that it is a Paint Tin Punch, which has different types of gin in each colour. This particular one has a strong peach flavour and is gloriously refreshing.

Ro takes a look around the bar. She comes back to the table disgruntled, complaining that Graphic is trying too hard to be from Shoreditch. I say that that is its concept, an East London bar in Central London. She’s still not impressed. The garage doors with single letter graffiti that line the right hand wall originated in her sacred East. Even the prints of the alphabet scattered around the venue are from East too. I roll my eyes and point at the ladies with the trays of canapés to distract her.

It works and the bites are samples from the menu. We scramble to get as many different canapés as possible, as we know they will not last long. The lamb koftas are deliciously succulent and the squid is soft with a delicate batter, littered in chillies. The tomato bruschetta is really fresh and a delight with a sip of ‘Yellow’.

Wanting more cocktails, I leave Ro to stew and head to the bar. I already knew before attending that Graphic is big on gin. It hosts a fortnightly event called The Juniper Society, as Facebook alerts me every so often, where lovers of all things gin can meet and sample some brands with likeminded people. I have been meaning to go for ages, but now that I have seen the venue, it is firmly on my to-do list.

Behind the bar is an impressive amount of gins. I lust over them as the barman makes me a ‘Red’. I love gin and the thought of all this gin under one roof makes me giddy.

I plonk the ‘Red’ down, which is made with Beefeater this time, and see if Ro has calmed down. She hasn’t, but I am hoping alcohol can remedy this.

Suddenly the music cuts to Spandau Ballet’s ‘Gold’. Before this, it was a wicked blend of mash-ups being played, so the change in musical direction is noticed by all. A server comes over to a table of ten and places a gold paint pot down, with an old-skool glittering gold boom-box. Confused, I consult the menu once again, to find that if you order the ‘Gold Paint Tin Punch’ for a hefty £95, you get a paint pot keg with Tanqueray, organic pineapple juice, citrus juices and organic honey. You also receive a bottle of Perrier Jouet. But if you are super fly and with a spare £15K you can get Tony Hadley to sing ‘Gold’ live. What a brilliant place. I think I have just found my new ginny home and I didn’t have to go East to get there. Result.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Whisky Tastings Should Never Be A Dry Affair

By Christian Rose-Day

So it’s a Tuesday. I’m in South East London patrolling the Camberwell area, assessing a few contenders for London’s Coolest Bar Top 10. It’s raining; cats, dogs, wardrobes, sheds, you name it. It is also the first night of the Champion’s League football on TV but I’m due at a whisky tasting at The Lonsdale in Notting Hill. That’s west London and there’s a problem with the Hammersmith & Shitty Line. But I’m in Camberwell, and it’s raining cats, dogs, etc....

There are moments in the life of a football-loving, rain-averse, south Londoner when questions intrinsically pop into one’s damp-leaking mind like “is this possibly the worst umbrella in the world’s?”, “are jeans the most porous of all clothes?”, and sometimes simply “whhhhhhhyyyyy?”; followed swiftly by “this better be bloody worth it!”

And you know what? It was.

I am alone. I wasn’t able to secure a +1, probably due to the reasons mentioned above. Once inside The Lonsdale, and after a cursory effort to dry myself under the hand dryer in the men’s toilet - “no fella, I haven’t peed on myself, the rain did this to me” - I am stood in the centre of The Lonsdale’s snazzy bar looking like the lemon that is in the....oooh, hang on, that tastes good. What is that? A whiskey sour, just handed to me as I arrive. I like. Wet who? Champions what? Camber, welllll.

A young, bespectacled whisky expert from drinks giant, Diageo, is in attendance, looking very dapper. He has a healthy obsession with Brylcreem and is sporting a waistcoat and jacket combo; obviously a connoisseur and a gentleman at heart. He looks like he knows a thing or two about blends and single malts.

A chap stood next to me is conversing with a waitress, who is trying to offer him a menu. “Oh no thank you. I know what I want already. I’ve been here before and you have a very nice chicken caesar salad.” He’s confident.

We’re lead, albeit squelchy, from the mirrorred bar into the glam rear restaurant which has an impressive shard light fitting that somehow reminds me of Superman’s icy hide out at the Fortress of Solitude.

Before we start the tasting we’re given a quick history lesson on Scottish whisky. I learn that the Egyptians two and half thousand years ago were the first to produce drinkable alcohol for medicinal purposes. I learn that whisky is basically beer without the hops. I learn that barley is the most important aspect of making whisky. I learn that whisky only turns brown because of the barrels that it’s housed in. I learn that a single malt whisky has to be aged for a minimum of 3 years to be called such. I learn that whisky is as much about the nose, as it is the palette, and the finish (the linger).

Having learnt a lot and not drunk a drop yet I’m anxious to get started.

We pinch our noses and take a sip of Glenkinchie 12 year from the Lowlands. This action helps to prolong what the teacher coins the ‘factory of hallucinations’, the mind’s trick of associating smell and fumes with some forgotten memories of Mum’s apple pie, fresh cut grass in the school playground, or burning tires at the race track.

The Glenkinchie is thin, inoffensive and slightly citrus on the end. The first sip warms my cockles. The second warms my ears. By the time I’ve tucked into the third, my toes are nice and toasty, even though no one knows I’ve sneakily removed my wet shoes under the table. The opulence of The Lonsdale really seals the deal for me; a smart, bright, sparkly interior puts a man to thinking he might stay a while. And indeed I did just that.

We make our way through a whisky taste map which has smoky, rich, delicate and light as its N, E, S and W.

The second tipple is created at the distillery that is Scotland’s highest, and the UK’s wettest place, apparently: the Dalwhinnie 15 year. I’m getting the hang of tasting using the entire tongue, not rushing to get the golden hued liquid to the back of my throat. This is my favourite of the evening. It’s spicier and aided by the consumption of several Rococo chocolates at the table.

The third is the Singleton of Dufftown 12 year from Speyside, which is richer, and almost tastes of toffee. Our journey then takes us onto the Isle of Skye, for the Talisker 10 year, which is attached to the best story of the evening - one in which the teacher confesses to digging up peat when half cut on Talisker - and is naturally smokier than the rest due to said peat. It’s also apparently rather tidy when drizzled over smoked salmon; yeh.

The final mystery whiskey, which has been staring at us all evening from the centre of our map, turns out to be a blend: the new Johnny Walker Double Black. It’s not to my liking though.

Lesson over, rains cease. I leave The Lonsdale with a happier face than when I entered, plus a clearer comprehension of the world of whisky AND Notting Hill’s swanky little hidden gem. I text a friend who has been watching the football, and attempt to type the word ‘fancied’ into my phone. The predictive text offers me ‘damaged’ instead. How appropriately inappropriate. Manchester United complete a nil-nil score bore in the Champions League. It’s then I decide it’s good to get wet sometimes.

Monday, 13 September 2010

A Key To Unlock Jub Jub’s Secret Bar in Shoreditch

By Christian Rose-Day and Flick Hardingham.

A key to a secret bar: cool as fek or just a little bit wanky? I’m of the ‘cool as fek’ school of thought which is why I was in such a kerfuffle about getting my hands on the blasted key that would get me in the door of the opening party of the secret Jub Jub bar at Callooh Callay in Shoreditch, only the key had seemingly been given to my editor to pass onto me and he’d left it in his other jacket. Yikes! Having never been to Callooh Callay before, I was was eager as chips to have a nosey around, especially as it had been suggested to me several times recently when I began researching London’s Top 10 Coolest Bars. No key, no cool, all palaver!

Thankfully, the ghost of Lewis ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Carroll - the author whose ‘Jabberwocky’ poem was the basis for both the Callooh Callay and Jub Jub bars - was assuring my luck, and made it so for me to join the party without the need of said key. Had this been any other ordinary Wednesday night, however, I may not have been so lucky because the essential idea behind the secret Jub Jub bar is that one must be in possession of a key in order to enter.

Callooh Callay’s cosy hideaway is hidden through the downstairs wardrobe, passed the wall of cassettes, and up a secretive set of stairs. The essence of Lewis Carroll lives on in the bar with a Flamingo bird, a bed head chaise lounge, a haunting clock face, and some intriguing artwork by Dan Hillier. Plus, of course, there’s a bar brimming with a truly stand-out selection of spirits.

As I tucked into my first cocktail I realised I had fortuitously sat right next to Dora and Boris of the Mo Group, the very architecture and design team who had dreamt up the whole Callooh Callay concept. Naturally, intrigue got the better of me and I had a few questions I needed to ask:

What inspired you when you were designing the bar at Callooh Callay?
Dora: Our design took inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s mysterious and surreal texts.

Is there anything at Callooh Callay that you're particularly proud of?
Dora: Building the ambience, I think (hope) we succeeded in achieving this ‘calculated madness’ feel to it. Alice in Wonderland styled interior plays with the elegant exaggerations and the sophisticated mischief of an eclectic Victorian style and we really enjoyed working with this theme.

What was your favourite cocktail tonight?
Dora: 'Fancy that' (42 Below passionfruit vodka, Aperol, lemon juice & Prosecco)

What makes the perfect bar?
Dora: As our lush professor of architecture would say...'A badly lit space allowing you to develop an intimate relationship with the rim of the glass'...Or...hopefully the contents of the cocktail glass say what the bar wants to say - a perfectly design bar needs to extend that relationship...into three dimensions? As you can see I got carried away here... 

What is YOUR favourite bar in London?
Dora: I like Indo on Whitechapel Road, mostly because it's conveniently located. Joking of course-it's at least 7 minutes walk from the tube!

After that (and our second cocktail) the conversations spiraled around playful topics such as the comedic genius of Aussie sitcom ‘Kath & Kim’, the concept of making up your own surname once married, and the manliness of a cocktail served in a goblet. One such drink was the potent Derby Teaser, equal parts Wild Turkey bourbon, tangerine marmalade and intergalactic rocket fuel, by my reckoning. I chose it not only to kick start my evening with a whoosh, but to taste a bourbon creation made by the hands of the World’s Bourbon Champion. This is because on this particular night the guest bartender was exactly that, and her name was Andrea Montague.

Ms Montague’s skills were not restricted to the smoky realms of Kentucky, however, and her considerable talents were most welcome in the XM 10 year rum, Chipotle syrup, and Angostura bitters cocktail known as The Diplomat. Her greatest achievement of the evening, though, came when my Fluid colleague Flick gave Ms Montague the brief of “I fancy something short, bitter, and manly”, to which Ms Montague replied with an off-menu bespoke drink using a moreish mix of rum, benadictine, averna, ginger beer and an orange twist. Being an infant cocktail (not for infant consumption, obviously) the drink was yet to be named, so Flick coined it The Anonymous Rug. Lewis Carroll would have approved.

Each week the Jub Jub bar will be hosted by a different master mixologist - such as Ms Montague - so that two visits will never be the same. To avoid any unforced errors concerning lapses into drunkenness, sushi will also be available on these evenings.

So how does one walk the way of the Jub Jub? Only those who hold the key will be bidden to play with the Mad Hatter. And how does one get to hold the key? Well, you’ll have to find that one out for yourselves.

To discover the Top 10 best cocktail bars in London, follow this link.


Friday, 3 September 2010

My New Favourite Underground Bar, Fantasy Beer Garden & Cool Cafe

Words by Christian Rose-Day.

As a member of the Fluid London editorial team, it is required of me to maintain a certain level knowledge about bars, restaurants, clubs and pubs in London, which is why myself and the team are constantly on the hunt.

Last week, whilst researching bars and clubs for our recent Hidden Gem Bars & Clubs Top 10, I discovered three amazing finds in just three short days:

Wednesday - My New Favourite Beer Garden - Grand Union Wandsworth
Grand Union took hold of this property a few months back and converted what was a fairly standard pub into an Alice in Wonderland fantasy with a beer garden to rival London’s best. I went along to the launch party of this 10th Grand Union pub and was immediately intrigued by the fierceness of the interior and exterior design: neon signage stating ‘dance’ (is that an instruction?); foliage, inside and out; classic Chinese fans laid over floral wallpaper; golden frieze; the fresh smell of paint in the men’s toilets (makes a change from the usual); old framed pictures of ships coming into harbour and antiquated gents at leisure; hanging lanterns; oversized coloured cushions on outdoor raised wooden platforms; a giant hammock (enough for more than one); plus flamboyant lampshades and rugs everywhere. The outdoor bar wasn’t covered and I questioned whether late August was the right time to open such a great beer garden but apparently there’s plans to bring in more ostentation in the form of tree houses to sit at the rear, just next to the River Wandle.

I grabbed a pint of Young’s, checked out the mainly 25-35 age bracket, got down to the slightly distorted but otherwise welcome Motown-heavy playlist from the DJ (cant go wrong with a few Dianas and Michaels), before asking a local her opinion about the new Grand Union Wandsworth pub. Emma, an Australian living in Wandsworth, held her birthday celebration here a few months before the alterations took place:

“It was quite bland and boring. Improvements include the nice lamps out the back and the decoration inside so it looks like somewhere you’d actually want to come on a Saturday night instead of being an old man’s pub. Definitely an improvement on last time. Does need more toilets for the ladies though.”

Thursday - My New Favourite Cool Cafe - Scootercaffe
This one could technically be classed as a bar as well but when I was there I was drinking tea so I’m going to call it a ‘cool cafe’. Possibly even London’s coolest cafe. It has cats roaming throughout the premises, rubbing up against legs and generally giving the place a homely air. Cakes, coffees, vintage tunes and loads of antique knick knacks aid this notion further. This is a true freelancer/student/arty type hangout, especially as the wifi is free. And when the sun has got his hat, the miniscule roof garden comes out to play. Scootercaffe is now officially the worst kept secret in Waterloo.

Friday - My New Favourite Bar - Three Blind Mice
I came across this subterranean bar in Shoreditch purely by accident when I was scoping out Casita right next door. There was no signage, just a lamp with a mouse insignia on it, and some very enticing funky music booming out like a siren through the open yet diminutive doorway. I popped my head in, descended the rickety stairs, and enquired if they were open. They weren’t, but with interest suitably piqued, I returned just two days later when they were. Within a minute of stepping up to the bar my colleague and I had a cold can of Red Stripe in our hands and were engaged in conversation about the fall and rise of Hackney Wick not only with the barman, but with the owner, the DJ, and the other customer sat at the bar as well. It doesn’t come more ramshackle than this but this cosy bar has so much character I doubt any two visits would ever be the same.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Then and There, Here and Now

By Flick Hardingham
....And so to one of Fluid London's favourite bars, The Book Club in Shoreditch, for a night of Cocoa Caipirinhas, ping-pong and a curious preview of framed A-listers courtesy of Peter Anderson. 
Anderson is a British photographer whose 'Then And There, Here and Now' exhibition will be on display at the Shoreditch hideaway until 26th September.
‘Then and There, Here and Now’ is a collection of black and white portraits created while Anderson was working in-house at NME in the 1980’s.  His subjects are an attractive assortment of musical icons and early hip-hop talent; including a pre-blonde Madonna and Mick Jagger buried among excitable groupies. 
Anderson works closely with his subjects and opens a door to an era when music, fashion and politics first collided.  Anderson’s giant photographic prints currently sell alongside Warhol, Basquiat and Banksy and his next project, ‘Here and Now’, capturing the local street style at the Arch Gallery in Deptford is sure to be a must-see.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Awkwardness of Burlesque at Midday on a Wednesday

Words by Ruth Emery, images courtesy of Racquel Diaiz.

We had spent an hour idly flicking through racks of over-priced dresses in Monsoon, checking out the jewellery in New Look and sorting the tat from ‘that’s actually quite nice’, and even popped into an outdoorsy shop to have a look at suitable walking trousers for a camping weekend (I don’t camp. I lost a bet.)

We kept looking at our watches. ‘Do you think it’s too early to go now?’ my friend asked hopefully. ‘Yes. It doesn’t open until 12pm. Let’s just have another little walk round and then maybe it’ll be time,’ I replied. My other friend complained that her stomach was growling and she just wanted to sit down and eat. And get away from the ridiculous rainy weather (this is August?). Oh and watch the burlesque show.

Yes, we had a booking at a burlesque club. It actually likes to call itself a ‘glamorous supper club’. We had a booking there at midday on a Wednesday. Because that’s what you do on a Wednesday lunchtime, right? Treat yourself to a three-course meal, have a bottle of wine, and watch an attractive man sing and tickle the ivories and an attractive woman sing and, well, take her clothes off.

My two best friends from school and I had taken the day off. Some shopping and a fancy lunch. Volupté seemed like a good place for a fancy and, well, different kind of lunch.

We arrived at 12.05. They weren’t ready for us yet. Oh. We hopped onto the bar stools in the ground-floor bar and waited to be told that our table downstairs in the ‘glamorous supper club’ was ready. At 12.20 we were led downstairs into the steamy kinky lair; although it wasn’t actually that steamy. Or kinky.

The place was completely empty. The décor was suitably glamorous and a little racey – red and purple wallpaper, a red lampshade with a lady’s legs as the stand, a few saucy pictures on the wall, a grand piano - but the atmosphere was subdued, not steamy.

By 12.45 we had been joined by a few other souls seeking some midweek thrills. Two couples, two older ladies and one man sitting on his own. Enough people so our loneliness vanished but not enough to make the awkwardness disappear. More of that in a moment.

First, the food. £12 for two courses. £15 for three courses. Very reasonable. And very tasty. As my friend (the one with the noisy stomach) declared: ‘Volupté isn’t shy with the entertainment and not shy with the flavours either! Make sure you put that in the review.’ So here it is in the blog (I had to put it in – she’s a policewoman, who knows what she would have done if I hadn’t).

The pea soup to start was frothy, creamy and luxurious. Perfect for a slightly chilly August day. A large portion of fishcakes was my friends’ choice of starter – pretty presentation, punchy fishcakes and a fresh and spicy salsa, they commented.

The mains were good too – the PC thought the prawns with sapphire were a success. And the puds were lovely: squidgy brownies with smooth pistachio ice cream, and refreshing and tingly raspberry and elderflower sorbets.

While we were wolfing down (alas, nothing has changed since school, we do still ‘wolf’ – what would our headmistress say?) our mains, the entertainment started. A petit redhead was our hostess. We were so hopeful, so optimistic, that the atmosphere would perk up and we would forget that there were only 10 people dining and watching these loud and saucy acts, that it wouldn’t be awkward. I mean, she was a good hostess. And the acts were pretty good. But it all just felt rather forced. We were a shy audience, reluctant to engage in the bottom spanking and rowdy rounds of applause that our hostess begged of us. It was a bit cringey. My friends were a bit embarrassed. ‘Don’t be silly, don’t be a prude, don’t be embarrassed,’ I scolded, being the cool, liberal, glamorous type that I am. But I was a bit embarrassed actually.

We were treated to Miss Bounty Hunter, all red wig and red glitter lipstick. She danced and jiggled her chest and took her clothes off about two feet from our table. I smiled and nodded and did my best to be the cool, liberal, glamorous type, and not look like a perv or a prude: it’s a hard act to get right.

Anthony Strong came on and did some sexy jazz on the big piano. It was a bit easier to wolf and chatter and not be forced to walk the fine line between perv and prude with Anthony.

Miss Bounty Hunter bounced back on. Uh-oh. And so the next hour or so went.
Although the acts were good, and for the price the food was excellent, I think a trip to Volupté at a more normal ‘glamorous supper club’ time like Friday or Saturday night would be an altogether more steamy, kinky, glamorous and less awkward affair. I will be back – but not at midday on a Wednesday.