Friday, 27 April 2012

Meat-Eaters, Nose-To-Tail Fortnight Is Here; But Are You Squeamish?

Meat lovers of London, May 2012 is a big month for you because some of London’s top restaurants are being challenged by the Ethical Eats campaign to step up their efforts during Nose-to-Tail Fortnight (Monday 30th April - Monday 14th May). So expect to see a lot more liver, kidney, black pudding, tail, tongue, tripe, sweetbreads, and brain on upcoming special menus.

Before you find out which London restaurants are taking part in Nose-to-Tail Fortnight, check that you’re not too squeamish to enjoy these meaty feasts. Check out the images below and if you’re still keen, CLICK HERE.







Images courtesy of ® Toby Allen

Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Search For Italy’s Emilia-Romagna Regional Cuisine In London

By Arthur Browne.

I love Italy and I love Italian food. I thought I’d better throw that disclaimer out there up front. I like Italy and Italian food even more when I poke my head out of the door of the office to make the short walk to an Italian food festival and note that it is raining that steady rain which gradually soaks you to the skin. As a Londoner, you never need a taste of the Mediterranean more than on a cold, blustery day.
Fortunately, a swanky hotel called the Melia White House just off Regent’s Park - a previously undiscovered spot for this particular Fluid London correspondent - graciously stepped in to fill the void. The code name is the Deliziando project and the objective is to promote the products of the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy.
I need to use this posting as a forum to remind my editor just what incredible delights he passed over in giving me the gig. Let me hand over to Gioele Camarlinghi, general manager at Melia White House: “Think fruity olive oils, prosciutto, culatello [a refined type of prosciutto], not to mention an array of pastas, such as macaroni, lasagne, tortellini, cannelloni, pappardelle and tagliatelle.” The man was spot on. I entered the room and it was a fruit and vegetable-free zone. That only made me love it all the more.
I arrived promptly with my companion and at first the conversation was a little stilted. The guests bunched together making chit-chat, waiting for the range of hams to be unveiled, marvelling at a wheel of parmesan so big it could have been used as cover if a lorry had broken down on the A501 outside.
Then the Emilia-Romagna sommelier had the excellent idea of uncorking some red Prosecco. It only had a gentle fizz and got the conversation flowing nicely. It also gave people the courage to start digging in for sumptuous chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano soaked in Modena balsamic vinegar, as well as to devour a proper melt-in-the-mouth Parma ham called Secretum, among others.
You’d be forgiven for thinking a nibble of this and a nibble of that wouldn’t keep everyone happy, but whenever I paused for breath a mouthful of something else popped up. I am still getting flashbacks to the juicy Piacenza pancetta salami. After the meat and cheese, a regular flow of pastas and tortellinis soon followed. These pastas came in jazzy little glasses, which looked very smart; however I did rather feel for one of my journalist colleagues who foolishly mislaid his fork early on in the proceedings.

To show Melia White House’s Mediterranean roots, this theme will run until 29th April, with visitors having the chance to tuck into themed menus packed with Emilia-Romagna delights in the hotel’s bar and restaurants. There will also be another festival in July and, with the exception of brilliant sunshine and mopeds, Deliziando is a fine stab at bringing a small slice of Italy to London. To book at Melia White House’s L'Albufera restaurant, use the calendar above. To book at Melia White House’s The Place restaurant, use the calendar below. Having suitably whetted my appetite for cuisine from one Italy’s premier culinary regions, I went in search of some other Emilia-Romagna gems in London. Here are two to keep an eye out for: Il Portico Restaurant on Kensington High Street has been cooking regional Italian specialities since it was first opened in the 1960s by Pino Chiavarini and the family comes from Emilia-Romagna. You’ll be in for similar geographical joy at Ponti’s Italian Kitchen (Mayfair or Marylebone): they take pride in sourcing ingredients from the region and originally hail from Piacenza.

Click here to discover the Top 10 best Italian restaurants in London.



Images courtesy of Steve Dunlop.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Rooftop Bars & Nose-To-Tail Restaurants: London’s Best Venues For Impressing Clients

By Anastasia Hancock.

The Swank Scale, degree and range of, cannot be underestimated when calculating the success of a central London bar or restaurant. Flash Factor, the Splash Cash Rate and Flaunt Appeal are all important gauges when it comes to impressing bosses and clients alike.
Take Vista, the bar perched smugly atop the Trafalgar Hotel, as a prime example. Stunning views of Trafalgar Square? Check. Premium prices? Check. Extravagant cocktails, celebrity clientele, rooftop kitchen? Sure. Little wonder that this destination bar rockets right off the Swank Scale.
Last summer Vista more than doubled in size and is now Central London’s biggest rooftop destination bar. To celebrate, as those at the top of the Swank Scale are wont to do, they threw a big, flash party.
In an attempt to distract press and partygoers alike from the inconsiderate rain that threatened expensive hairstyles, the organisers threw as much Champagne and chic cocktails down our necks us they could; such a hardship! Still, the herb garden (natch), arguably the best view in the city, and cocktails such as Hot Chilli Woman, Leila Lavender Martini and the Mojiterraneo numbed the pain.

This is the perfect spot to wow. And if impressing clients is your game, then get your best power suit on, the AmEx out, and forget the big sales pitch. These bad boys will do the talking for you.

Further bars and restaurants for impressing clients and bosses
Restaurant Les Trois Garcons in Shoreditch offers the best of east London cool, with a fabulous menu, hipster crowd and extensive taxidermy, a useful talking point once the conversation lags. This is not the place for the more staid corporate client, but is sure to impress nonetheless.
St John Bar and Restaurant in Smithfields is undoubtedly the spot to make an impression on foodie clients. The last word in nose-to-tail dining, Fergus Henderson’s gem of a converted smokehouse showcases brilliant British cuisine: meat, meat, meat!
If it’s all about the style without forgetting the substance, Joseph Conran’s Boundary restaurant, bar and rooftop terrace in Shoreditch is pretty impressive. Treat your client to fantastic cocktails and delicious seafood (and blow the budget) and the deal will be sealed.
Kensington’s Roof Gardens fit the bill for those willing to foot the bill in West London. Dine at Babylon, the flash restaurant, or take a stroll amid the wildlife in the three themed sky gardens. Come on, who’s not impressed by flamingos at a rooftop bar, restaurant and club? To book a table at Babylon, use the calendar below.

For further inspiration on rooftop bars, restaurants, gardens and terraces in London, click here.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

London's Women-Only Beer Drinking Club

By Alwynne Gwilt.

When I was younger, I loved the idea of being a part of a secret society. Unfortunately, only me and my soft-toy dog that wore a sleuth's hat ever seemed to be members of my mystery club.

But that intrigue around becoming a "member" of something only increased when I came to London. In Canada (where I am from originally) the idea of a private members' club is minimal; at least, so far as I know. Here in England, however, clubs like these go back centuries. More often than not, these have been reserved for gentlemen: hunting lodges, filled with stags' heads in recognition of masculinity; or clubs on the Strand with roaring fires and leather club chairs, which have only opened up to women in recent years because of legislation.

So, when I stumbled upon Dea Latis - the women's only beer tasting club - I was taken aback. Not only was this flying in the face of convention by highlighting a drink normally aimed at men as being something us ladies could enjoy, but it was also clearly declaring that it was a "no men allowed" kind of space.

Named after the goddess of beer and water, the club was formed in 2010 by a group of women in the brewing and pubs world. Co-founder Ros Shiel, a PR woman by trade, says that membership has grown to 60 and is made up of beer-loving ladies who are trying to spread the good word of the drink to more women in the UK. With its mission to "bring beer to women", Ros says they're hoping to overcome the obstacles which stop women from drinking beer.

"Many brewers are doing similar work, and have proper budgets, which we don’t have, but we do think that there are times when it’s useful to have a common voice, speaking on behalf of the industry, rather than a specific brewer or beer," she told me.

I met the team at a recent beer and chocolate matching at The Draft House Tower Bridge, which brought female brewers and spokeswomen of craft breweries to London to show how versatile many beers can be. My favourite pairing? Brewster’s Chocolate Cyn, a 4.8% porter, matched with dark chocolate with orange and ginger from chocolatiers Divine. The rich coffee and chocolate notes of the porter married beautifully with the bitter bite of the chocolate: it was heavenly.

Dea Latis hosts events like these twice a year and does at least one talk with a female member of the brewing community for members.

For the future, Ros says she hopes to change perceptions about beer for women and see beer advertising shift from having such a “blokey” image in order to encourage more females to get involved.
So, if you’re keen to learn more about beers and are after a cool female-only club, definitely check them out. And in the interim, check out some of these amazing pubs in London which will offer up a brilliant beer education in between Dea Latis events!
Craft Beer Company, Clerkenwell
Based near Farringdon, the Craft Beer Company (pictured above) offers up more than 400 bottles in its cosy pub on Leather Lane. Its aim is to create a "unique beer experience" and this has found it voted as one of the top beer bars in the world by website ratebeer.com. The bar also serves up delicious pies and proper, locally made snacks so after you've had a few craft beer delights, you can fill up on something headier than crisps.
Old Red Cow, Smithfields
Also near Farringdon is the Old Red Cow (above) in Smithfield Market. With a continual rotation of quality guest ales, imports on tap from the US and a selection of tasty food bites, this pub is a great place to chill out at after a walk around this historical part of the city. Interesting jazz nights and, food and beer pairing evenings compliment the space.
De Hems, West End
A west end staple, De Hems (above) serves a fantastic roster of Belgian and Dutch beers on tap and by the bottle like Chimay and Trappist Rochefort. A large upstairs area with big, leather couches and chairs next to huge picture frame windows looking out onto China Town make this pub a great place to stop off at when your feet are tired from wandering through central London. Beware: it gets packed on Friday nights.
The Rake, Borough Market
Award winning pub, The Rake (above), is based in Borough Market and run by the team from Utobeer, a specialty shop down the road. It's tiny but packs a punch in terms of what it offers, including three real ales, five tap beers and up to 200 bottled beers and ciders.

To further discovery the best beer bars and pubs in London, follow this link.

Selected images courtesy of Flickr users Ewan-M and Kake Pugh. All others provided by the writer.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Making A Mighty Mexican Meal In Benito’s Hat, Central London

By Sophie Marie Atkinson.

God dang it, they've done it again. Those pesky masterminds behind Mexican fast-food chain, Benito’s Hat, have come up with another genius way to entice us punters through their doors to stuff our greedy little faces full of their delicious grub.

Only this time their plan may not be entirely fool-proof [cue evil laugh] for they intend to teach us mere mortals how to make said tasty grub [stage whispers] *in our own homes*.

Or so we thought. Thankfully, for the likes of Ben Fordham – the brains behind the outfit – and his trusty side-kick/head chef Felipe Fuentes Cruz, the task at hand – preparing salsa, tortillas and watermelon margaritas from scratch – proved to be a tad more difficult than us foodies had anticipated and ended with some, ahem, interesting consequences.

Throughout the evening, which took place in the basement of the Oxford Circus branch of Benito’s Hat, both Ben and Felipe took it turns to walk us through the recipes and techniques and were there to offer a helping hand when required (or when bickering broke out amongst team members). We were split into two groups and instructed to create our own dishes, based on the prior demonstrations, but with a twist.

And twist these recipes we certainly did. I was part of the more, erm, avant-garde team and there is a teeny-tiny chance that perhaps *some* of us got a bit power crazy (*whistles and stares at the ceiling*).

We kicked off with the salsa, and decided to mix it up a bit, mushing together guacamole, cooked onions, green tomatoes and chilies with a shed-load of coriander and lime juice. I, we, I mean we, thought the end result was epic, although the judges didn’t necessarily agree.

Then it was cocktail time. Again, going against the grain (read: with complete disregard for the human palette), we decided to throw caution, or tequila, to the wind and make a savory cocktail. Like a Bloody Mary. But much spicier. And with tequila. And much more vile. Once again, Felipe watched in horror, but ended up fairly impressed with the end result (either that or by this point he was just too terrified to critique us and instead opted for the ‘smile and make yummy noises’ technique adopted by parents of young children who insist on making them breakfast in bed).

The tortillas, however, were a different story entirely. By this point, fairly pissed and completely hysterical, we decided to bastardise Felipe’s recipe by adding cheese and coriander. To outstanding results, so-much-so that I, I mean we, threatened to patent them and fully expect to find them on the menu soon.
Slightly-bizarre results aside, the night was a hoot, and I wouldn’t hesitate to head back for more lessons. And further hysteria. I left armed with a goodie bag and a handful of tips that, despite the vast quantities of tequila consumed, seem to have stuck in my mind a couple of weeks later. And thanks to the quality and volume of food served throughout, I also left with the top button of my jeans undone. I’m all class, me.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

7 Must-Have Spanish Wines: The Wine Tipster’s Hotlist Of Spanish Wines

By guest blogger, Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster.

I admit, I’m biased here because my first job in the wine trade was for a Spanish wine importer called Moreno Wines, who are still in business today. Working for Moreno Wines not only introduced me to the world of manchego cheese, chorizo and tapas, it also acquainted my palate with the wonderful world of wines from Rioja, the most important wine region in Spain, which is responsible today for 4 out of 10 bottles of Spanish wine sold in the UK.

Although Rioja is principally known for its reds, there are some great traditional oak-aged whites, which I admit are not to everyone’s taste because they are not a fresh fruity style. However, for others, they will be a welcome discovery and a brilliant food match.

Reds from Rioja have always had a loyal fan base. The Tempranillo-dominated blends are known as crianza, reserva and gran reserve, depending on the time in bottle and in oak barrels. In the region today is an exciting mix of some producers who don their caps to the past and others who want to age their wines for less time in oak and make a more fruit-dominant style.

If you are a tinto fan and want to explore other areas of Spain, take in the en-vogue region of Ribera del Duero east of Valladoid which produces some of the most refined reds in Spain; although, in some cases, the wines come with a fashionable price tag! Or Priorat, near Barcelona, where you can find food-friendly, full-bodied reds with complexity and good balance. Over to the North-West is Bierzo, a super trendy region producing very exciting wines from the Mencia varietal.

For the blanco fans, Spain is now making a range of high quality fresh whites, including Albarinos - the smartest indigenous white varietal – from Rias Baixas in the North-West which are great to drink on their own or with shell fish or grilled fish. Meanwhile, inland in Rueda, fresh, crisp whites from Verdelho with a splash of Sauvignon Blanc can be found. In Somantano in the North, with the right producer behind them like Viñas del Vero, international varieties like Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay are really worth trying.

If pink is your tipple, look no further than Navarra, adjacent to Rioja, where Chivite produce quality rosado and tinto too.

If Spanish fizz is what you’re looking for there is plenty of good dry, crisp Cava on the market which is made mainly in Penedes (also good for whites), west of Barcelona, or alternatively, and increasingly my own choice, is a glass of fino sherry from Jerez in South-West Spain.

The Wine Tipster’s Spanish Selection

Sherry: Tio Pepe Fino Gonzalez Byass, Jerez
Bar and restaurant stockists: Fino’s Mayfair, Iberica Canary Wharf, Camino King’s Cross
A glass of fino sherry like Tio Pepe is the ideal dry, refreshing start to an evening out. Perfect with some nuts and olives.



White Wines:
Albarino Paco & Lola 2010, Adegas Rosalia de Castro, Rías Baixas (above)
Bar and restaurant stockists: All Bar One
From the exciting Rías Baixas region, made with the trendy Albarino varietal this dry, stylish white is a lovely aperitif with lime and lemon fruit flavours and a creamy finish.

Torres Viña Sol 2010, Miguel Torres, Penedes (above)
Bar and restaurant stockists: Joe’s Brasserie Fulham, Union Cafe Marylebone
Simply one of the best easy drinking dry whites around and if you are ever undecided on your wine selection then Viña Sol will come to your rescue.
Viña Tondonia Blanco Reserva 1993, López de Heredia , Rioja (above)
Bar and restaurant stockists: Scott’s Mayfair
Yes the vintage is correct! Made by one of the classic Rioja producers, this wonderful traditional white Rioja has been aged in American oak for ten years yet it is still youthful, dry and creamy with delicious fresh character and complexity. A great match with fish in cream sauce.

Red Wines:
Gran Feudo Edición Tempranillo 2010, Bodegas Chivite, Navarra
Bar and restaurant stockists: Fuller’s pubs, Brindisa
If you are looking for a friendly easy-drinking red which you can enjoy with or without food then this is your choice.
Camins del Priorat 2009, Álvaro Palacios, Priorat (above)
Bar and restaurant stockists: Iberica Canary Wharf
Refined winemaking by the talented Álvaro Palacios, this full-bodied red is packed with dark fruits and chocolate, with balanced tannins. A great example of the high level of wine Priorat can produce.
Marqués de Murrieta Tinto Reserva 2005, Rioja (above)
Bar and restaurant stockists: Corney and Barrow Wine BarsEyre Brothers Shoreditch, Moro Exmouth Market, The Goring Hotel Victoria, The Lanesborough Hyde Park Corner
One of the excellent wines from this vintage: medium full-bodied packed with blackberries, damsons, spice and subtle oak. This well structured red is a must with lamb or save it for the manchego!

To discover the best Spanish restaurants in London, follow this link

Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster is a wine presenter, foodie, writer and horse racing pundit, Neil is the Food and Wine Ambassador for Taste of London and also the organiser of the Best in Taste Wine Awards. Check out the www.thewinetipster.co.uk and twitter.com/thewinetipster.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Is Cool Britannia Making An Olympic Comeback?

By Imogen Rowland

I don’t know if you’re aware - there’s not been much news coverage, so reasonably speaking you may not be - but there are a couple of low profile events happening in the UK this summer. One is basically a jumped-up sports day, the other is this big, hug-a-grannie type affair; so far, so snooze-worthy.

Now, as low-key and subtle as the build-up to these two events has been, there have been a few tell-tale signs for those of you with eagle eyes. Most noticeable has been the silent but potentially deadly inundation of Union Jacks. Shop windows, fashion lines, magazines, and souvenir paraphernalia have all been queuing up to pay homage to the ol’ red, white and blue. Even Stella McCartney has joined in. It seems that, far from being a mid-nineties phenomena, ‘cool Britannia’ is back and means business in 2012.

I was surprised last week to discover this even extends to pubs. Recently re-branded and re-opened is The Blacksmith and The Toffeemaker pub on St John Street in Clerkenwell. Named after a song by Jake Thackray (of whom the owners are devout fans), it’s so far, so standard.
However, The Blacksmith and The Toffeemaker pub is definitely doing its best to hit high on the ‘big‘n’ blighty’ barometer this year. Boasting a bounty of British gins from distilleries across these fair Isles, the drinks list is a happy stroll down a country lane (and potentially into gin-induced inertia). The food is equally Brit-tastic: during our wine tasting event we were treated to native oysters, potted salmon, rabbit pie and that staple of the modern gastropub, the homemade scotch egg. After all, what says British fare better than sausagemeat cuddling a runny boiled egg?
Tasty and convincing as the menu was, the only drawback was that, on the Tuesday night upon which I paid my visit, the place lacked atmosphere. Fair-dos, the same could be said of some of the capital’s best drinking holes early in the week. But between the freshly finished décor and the tame mid-week crowd, the vibe (yes, vibe; R Kelly ain’t got nothin’ on me) was a bit, well, flat. The tonic, on the up side, was as fizzy as you’d wish.

Still, if you think about it, what did I expect? Add together the slightly apologetic demeanour of the lovely staff and the stiffly polite atmosphere and what could be more British? Go and see for yourself. Just be sure to bring your stiff upper lip in case R Kelly isn’t around.