Thursday, 31 May 2012

Poker In London 7-Days A Week (Sometimes For Girls Only)

By Laura Collins.

“Snap!”


“Rummy!”


“Cheat!”

This is card playing lingo that I understand.

“Two paired on the river”


“Ace in the hole”


“The chips are down”

This is card playing lingo that I don’t understand, or, at least, I didn’t until I attended Poker Night for Women at The Lucky Pig in Fitzrovia last week.

Prior to gaining education in the way of poker, my card game knowledge was somewhat basic, with games such as Pairs, Go Fish and Whist in my repertoire. Mastering poker was therefore well overdue, although, for me, it has always been one of those games that I’ve dismissed as something I’d never be able to play. I was convinced I wouldn’t have the patience or ability to learn but it seems I was doubting myself too much, and the Poker Night for Women proved this.

This monthly event is ideal for those ladies of London who want to learn and play poker. It’s a chance for girls across the city to get together to see if they’ve got what it takes to become the next poker champion. They can learn the rules, enjoy a few cocktails, and have a natter in a non-intimidating atmosphere; perfect for poker beginners.
 It was certainly perfect for me and thanks to Tim, our very patient poker guide from Poker Vision, I managed to learn the basic rules of Texas Hold Em Poker within a few hours. I played a number of games and even managed to win a couple of hands. Admittedly, I am no hustler and my poker face (more of a confused, worried look) leaves much to be desired, but that’s not to say that I can’t try becoming one. And if I can do it, anybody can.


Luckily, it seems this can be done fairly easily because poker nights are rife across London. Budding poker champions can practice their card playing skills almost any night of the week, with nights open to both males and females of all levels.

The poker playing week can begin on a Sunday at the Cross Keys pub near Ravenscourt Park. Poker games are held here on a weekly basis and start around 8pm. There is usually a £10 buy in and normally a few games can be played throughout the evening due to small player numbers.

On a Monday, hustler wannabes can take residence at The Goat in Boots pub (right) in Chelsea. Every week, a poker evening is held in the venue’s upstairs bar, the 333 Sports and Cocktail Bar. The night starts at 8pm and there is a £5 buy in. The winner takes all. Every level of player is welcome and the top players can be entered into the London finals tournament.

Poker fanatics can continue playing the following evening at The Samuel Pepys Bar and Restaurant near Mansion House and the banks of the River Thames. Poker nights are held here every Tuesday, although advanced booking is required as is a minimum bar spend.

The fun doesn’t have to stop mid week because a poker night is held in the North Nineteen Steak and Ale House in Holloway on Wednesday nights. This weekly event starts at 8pm, but make sure you arrive early to ensure you’re sat down and ready to play.

Thursday nights can be spent at The Furzedown pub in Streatham where poker is rather a big deal (excuse the pun), and is organised by Pollards Hill Poker Club. The pub houses seven LED lit, 96 inch poker tables capable of sitting ten players, so you won’t be short of opponents. The games are traditional pub poker club leagues consisting of several live poker tournaments. The evening starts at 7.30pm and beginners are welcome.

For a less intense evening that has a broader focus, perhaps try the casino night at Yager Bar (video below) in the City of London. Held on the last Thursday of every month this event offers a variety of games and starts around 7pm.



Remember, if you see a girl with a confused look on her face it’s most certainly me trying my hardest to hustle you. Let the game commence; may the best man or woman, win.

To discover more bars and pubs in London that offer a variety of games, click here.

The Goat in Boots image courtesy of Flickr user Ewan-M.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Art a la Carte: London Restaurants & Pubs Get Arty

By Sophie Marie Atkinson.

Raindrops on roses,
Whiskers on kittens,
Bright copper kettles,
And warm woolen mittens.

Those may have been some of Maria Von Trapp’s favourite things, but I’m a little less fussy (and much less creative). I like things that taste good and are nice to look at.

I like food and art. Those are my two babies. From English pub grub to Eritrean cuisine; Francis Bacon to Tracy Emin.

My ideal way to spend an afternoon in London? Borough Market then the Tate Modern. Wandering around, gazing at Gaudi and rubbing my round little belly, filled with chorizo and cheese.

But these days, recession ‘n’ all, it’s all about saving time (and money); killing two birds with one stone. Which is the reason, I believe, behind London’s latest fad. I don’t want to go to an exhibition then go for dinner; I simply don’t have time. I want to experience art whilst eating dinner.



Sketch (video above), Mayfair’s up-market gourmet restaurant-come-gallery, led the way when it opened in 2003, and last year even Wagamama jumped on the art-wagon when it showcased a range of specially created pieces by some of the UK's most exciting, emerging artists in ten of its restaurants across the country; an initiative for which Jaime Winstone was an ambassador.

Book at Sketch using this reservations calendar



But few people, other than Jamie herself, can afford a meal in Sketch, and as far as I know, Wagamama have no current plans to revisit the venture. So where can fellow foodie/arties head to partake in this latest genius restaurant-art trend?



First and foremost, Shoreditch’s The Book Club (video above) is worth a rather large mention. This trendy bar/club, run by some of East London's most influential movers and shakers, features new exhibitions, curated by the uber cool Liat Chen, which change every 4-8 weeks. Look out for Confessions in Water, an exhibition of artist and illustrator Dio Lau, this summer. The food at The Book Club is pretty damn good too, and the cocktails have awesome, apt names like Shoreditch Twat and Don’t Go To Dalston.


Looking for something a bit more traditional and less, well, scenester? At the other end of the scale – and on the other side of London – The Imperial Arms (pictured above) on The Kings’ Road in Chelsea is said to showcase some of the best contemporary photography in London in its Little Black Gallery, including work by the legendary Bob Carlos Clarke. If the photography itself isn’t enough of a pull, head down on a Friday or Saturday night this summer when from 6-10pm, different traders from Eat St take over the garden of the pub.

Continuing along the cheap and cheerful lines of the street food of The Imperial Arms is Nom Noms Vietnamese Café in Elephant and Castle. Local artists, all with a Manga theme, are exhibited in this Asian-fusion eatery. Great special offers mean that you are probably looking at less than a tenner a head for starters, mains and beers. Quite the contrast to Sketch!



In a similar bracket to Sketch – although not quite as extravagant – is Quaglino’s (video above), my father’s favourite restaurant in London: fact. From May 28 until June 18 2012, ‘Quag’s’ (as they refer to it on Made in Chelsea) will host a display of new images commissioned the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). Shot by BAFTA photographer Ian Derry, the previously unseen collection will feature photographs of some of British most talented and iconic stars including Jo Brand, Julie Walters and comedy duos Vic and Bob and Ant and Dec.

Current offer at Quaglino’s using the reservations calendar below: 2 courses, a glass of wine and a ticket to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition for only £28.50





Love a bit of political satire (and let’s face it, in this day and age, who doesn’t enjoy mercilessly mocking politicians?), then don’t miss the exhibition of political cartoons from Jeffery Archer’s collection currently on display at Tempo Bar and Restaurant (pictured above) in Mayfair. This fairly chichi restaurant is worth a visit for the divine Italian food alone (and the chance of spotting a former or current MP; many are said to eat here). Regardless of your personal feeling towards Lord Archer, the cartoon collection – curated by Archer with art dealer Chris Beetles - is impressive and comprehensive, showcasing original artwork that spans 250 years of political and socio-economic activism and features caricatures of Thatcher, Churchill, Reagan and John Major.

Book a table at Tempo Bar and Restaurant by using the reservations calendar below



Gay Hussar (video below) is another restaurant combining political cartoons with decent dining. The walls above the tables of the Soho landmark – which has been serving up Hungarian specialities and the fine wine from the region over 50 years – are adorned with the famously entertaining collection of politician caricatures.



It may not have 50 years behind it – or even a fraction of that – but The Brockley Mess is an art gallery, bar and café that is beautifully decorated and serves up cheap breakfasts and lunches. This funky, colourful little hotspot in south-east London offers a short but well thought-out wine list and Mexican-inspired breakfast burritos. It even has a beautiful garden. And a website. Exhibitions at the gallery change every six weeks.

From the look of things, this is one fad that is set to run and run. I’m personally particularly fond of this movement as it feeds the tummy and the soul. Awwwwwww. So next time you are dining out – be it Wagamamas or a Michelin-starred pub on the Kings’ Road – make a point of paying attention to any art that may be adorning the walls. You could be staring at the work of the next Tracy Emin, although hopefully not those mucky bedsheets.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Men: Growing Up & Embracing The Ale

By Patrick Evenden

Lager
Lager
Lager
Shouting

To some, a song lyric, to others a code of behaviour with applications across a range of social environments: the 21st birthday party; the England football match; the summer holiday. Regrettably, when I was trading my first few explorative punches with alcohol between the ages of 16 and 22, it was mode of conduct that I all too readily fell into.

Lager does make me, and most men, a bit on the shouty side. It has also been known to make me sing, leer, slur, lurch and very occasionally wear women’s clothing. It’s no wonder, by the time you reach your late twenties, you start shopping around for a drink that doesn’t make you act like a bit of a prick.

Rather unwisely I tried my hand at cider. Cider is the Piccadilly Line to Lager’s District Line: both take you to Hammersmith, only one gets you there much quicker. And Hammersmith is awful. Wine is good, very good. But you see Alex Ferguson’s nose? Wine did that. You could always have a cocktail. That was a joke. NEVER order a cocktail unless it’s for someone else, and even then, make them carry it back from the bar.

It is this alcoholic quandary that sees so many men staring down the barrel of their thirties, turn to bitter and ale. As a teenager you wouldn’t be seen near it. In my experience there is a clear correlation between the sort of teenagers that drink bitter and those still attending Venture Scouts.

But as you grow up you start doing things that would make your younger self implode with embarrassment. You start walking purely for pleasure, you find yourself looking at jumpers in M&S, and Chris Packham becomes less laughing stock, more idol. Similarly, you begin to feel the allure of a pint of Old Cornish Bastard, served in one of those thick glasses with a handle.

Recently, I attended the launch of a new pale ale by the St Austell Brewery for Nicholson’s pubs. What is clear when you hear people talking about proper ale is that they care. The almost fanatical way they talk about variations in flavour, is entirely alien to a lager drinker. No one has ever taken a sip of Stella and commented on its hop varieties. They are far too busy menacingly wielding a pool cue, while urinating into someone’s handbag.

This was the first time that I had ever heard anyone talk about beer in terms that are usually reserved for fine wines. We were guided through the difference between Styrian Goldings hops from Slovenia and the Galaxy varietal from Tasmania. We were also invited to taste the Maris Otter malting barley used in the brewing process. Unfortunately, being a bit of a newcomer, I was unsure of what the etiquette is when passed a glass full of malting barley. I sniffed it, much like you would a brandy and nodded appreciatively before passing it to the stranger on my right. He took a handful and crunched it between his teeth, shooting me a look of utter contempt.

Thankfully the malting barley was but an appetiser and we were given chargrilled chorizo, which was complemented perfectly by the St Austell pale ale. This, to me, was something else. Beer with food? Everyone knows that eating is in contravention with established rules and is, therefore, considered cheating. Don’t they?

Discover the best beer, ale and bitter pubs in London, by clicking on this link.




Friday, 25 May 2012

London, The Sun Is Shining So Let’s Get Out On The Roof

By Nathalie Bonney.

London is a gazillion times better when it’s sunny; fact. Going for a walk or sitting in the sun are activities elevated from the everyday (or cheap time fillers) to summertime events. The Brits’ motto is when it’s sunny, do whatever you can to be outside. The result? Every patch of green and open space resembles a discarded Solero under attack of the ants.

Pub gardens in London have to be staked out early on in the day and after work al fresco dinner and drinks can more often than not turn into a portion of chips and G&T standing next to a massive wheelie bin. The solution? Kensington Roof Gardens, which is split into three gardens: the Tudor Garden is home to the BBQ guests; Flamingoes Bill, Ben, Splish and Splosh are best spotted in the Woodland Garden, which is quieter and best explored while still light; the most dramatic garden is the Spanish Garden. Drawing on Moroccan influences as well, the VIP area is a swirl of floaty fabrics and cosy cushions. Carefully crated topiary conifers flank the garden’s water features while palm trees, mosaic tiles, Moorish arches and pink walls transport guests to a garden in Granada. Ah bliss, a holiday without the journey.

But remember no airfare = no guarantee of good weather. At the Roof Gardens’ opening weekend temperatures were decidedly un-summery. Seeing your breath while watching fireworks is a pretty good warning signal you’re in Blighty not the Bahamas. Doggedly eating a BBQ outside when you’d much prefer to enjoy your (rapidly cooling) food indoors is another sure sign of being British. Ah Britannia!

Giant parasols, heaters and huge, fleecy blankets ensure that punters can have their BBQ and eat it regardless of the weather, while live music keeps spirits up. The club has a number of house bands including the oh so fun ‘The Essentials’, crooning along to the best of Stevie, Aretha, Lionel and Queen and taking requests from diners.

BBQ highlights include the lightly grilled sea bream, steak and glorious salads. Puds are a bit of a letdown but save some space for a scoop of chocolate mousse and brownie dessert, served in a supersize martini glass.

House music is the genre of choice at the club, but the beauty of Kensington Roof Gardens is that if the music sucks you can just enjoy the garden instead. The downside is if the weather also sucks you’re stuck between a house music club and a cold place (the atmospheric but undoubtedly outside Spanish Garden). The dilemmas of being a Brit.

The weekly Friday and Saturday BBQs run throughout the summer, until 6 October 2012. Thursday 2nd and 9th August also open. Firework displays on special occasions.

Cost: £60 on Fridays (and Thursdays) and £65 on Saturday. This includes a glass of Pimms on arrival, BBQ, dessert and coffee plus entertainment and access to the club afterwards.

To discover more summer roof terraces in London, click here.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Cool Cognac Taking The Cocktail Spotlight In London

By Alwynne Gwilt.

As many Fluid readers know, the cocktail bar scene in London is hot, hot, hot and showing no signs of slowing down. From the gin craze started a couple of years ago, to tequila and Scotch, cocktail lovers are spoiled for choice in our fair city.

As such, it's no surprise that more and more drink brands are keen to dip a toe into this world of liquor.

The latest spirit I have come across is Cognac. Now, to me, Cognac has always been a "sip by the side of a fire" kind of a drink; something you have on cold winter nights once you reach your twilight years.

But, with a new bottle design - the first since the 1920s - Cognac leader Remy Martin is trying to put its feet firmly in the cocktail camp.

In order to find out what they are all about, I recently headed over to the Savoy Hotel’s American Bar where bartender Swanand Korgaonkar whipped up some tasty treats for my eager self.

Swanand has worked at the Savoy since 2003, before the hotel’s and Remy Martin's respective makeovers. He told me he likes to use Remy Martin because he has been to the distillery in the Cognac region and was impressed by the company’s commitment to the product.

“What I like about Remy Martin is the philosophy and the people,” he said. “They don’t do it for the business, they do it for the passion.”

Swanand knows all about that; he has an exuberant passion for cocktails and their development. We started out with a Champs Elysee - a recipe for which is below - which he delicately made with Chartreuse, Remy Martin VSOP, homemade sours and Angostura bitters. It was rich but perfectly balanced between sweet and sour, the Cognac coming through right at the end with a burst.

But my favourite was one of Swanand’s own creations called the Colly, which has won him many a cocktail competition and which will soon be appearing on the menu at the American Bar. Made from a mix of bright saffron, smooth cognac, sharp lemon, agave syrup, quince liquor and Peychaud’s bitters (and a dash of love and passion, according to Swanand), this is a whopper of a drink. It’s one for sipping after a long day with your favourite friends, while you relax in the grandeur of 1920s style that is the American Bar.

After a few drinks, it was evident I was becoming more convinced of using Remy Martin in cocktails. The company is doing a lot right now to move into this market, even creating a cold Cognac machine, called the Remy Iceboxx, which dispenses one perfectly chilled shot of VSOP for partygoers. I think, Fluid Londoners, you may just see a new liquor taking a spot at the front of the cocktail queue, but only time will tell.

A cognac recipe for a Champs Elysees (pictured below)
45ml Rémy Martin VSOP Mature Cask Finish
20ml green chartreuse
20ml lemon juice
15ml sugar syrup
1 dash angostura

If you'd like to learn more about cocktails, wines and Champagne, click here for a guide to classes in London.


Monday, 21 May 2012

The Quaintest Wedding Venue In South West London?


By Christian Rose-Day.

Last week Fluid London was invited to a delightful breakfast showcase at a true hidden gem in south west London: Fulham Palace. Upon leaving, we decided that if anyone were ever inclined to marry Fluid London, then this would be the venue we would choose to get married in. It is magnificent.

Tucked away amongst some very, very old trees, this former residence of the Bishop of London has tons of character, and more wedding party combinations than you could throw a bouquet at.

It’s also a lovely place for afternoon tea.

Hopefully, you’ll understand why from the photos below.

Click here to discover more amazing wedding venues in London.






Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Books, Wine & Penny Smith’s Heavy Petting

By Philippa Morton.

I hate the Kindle.

I’m persistently pestered to buy a Kindle by my gadget obsessed boyfriend, and ‘keep up with Joneses’ connections. Admittedly, it has it plusses: they save paper, they save space, and they’re much lighter to carry. But I can’t help that I’m an old fashioned girl who loves the feeling of a book in my hand. I am dying to find someone out there who agrees with me. And being on a computer all day, sometimes I just can’t wait to feel books and magazines being caressed in my finger tips, probably the only time heavy petting in public is acceptable!

The good news is that I am no longer dying. I found someone who agrees with me; someone who also loves the feeling of a book in their hands (and therefore also guilty of heavy petting in public!) She’s smart, beautiful, witty (NOOO, NOT me this time) and she’s also a TV presenter. Penny Smith is an avid supporter of Oxfam and with a cool £1.6 million worth of books donated and sold through Oxfam a year, it’s no wonder. Can you believe that so much money can be raised to help fund poverty around the world?

There’s one thing I like just ever so slightly more that the feeling of a book in my hands: a book in one hand AND a glass of wine in the other! So with the presence of Lindeman’s wine at Oxfam’s launch of the Wine and Book Club with Penny Smith, it was a night made in heaven. But helping people requires sacrifice and giving up something for yourself. How can drinking wine and buying books possibly help others? Well, this is the deal: for every book bought at the events, Lindeman’s doubles the amount of money made! And in case you were wondering, Oxfam is run by volunteers, so as much as possible goes to the actual need. So I really hope you’re extra splurging when you’re drunk!

There are plenty more upcoming Oxfam Wine and Book Club events. Just check out www.wineandbookclub.co.uk to attend one near you!

By the way, I have something to tell you, even if I don’t want to, but go ahead check it out, ‘cos I know you want to: Lindeman’s is giving a 1000 of them away. Yes, 1000 Kindles!

Philippa donated Jack Canfield's book 'Chicken Soup For The Soul' and bought 'The Hidden Children' by Jane Marks.

For those particularly interested in wine, check out our guide to the best wine bars in London. The perfect place to unwind and discuss all your new books.

Friday, 11 May 2012

25 Foods That Go Particularly Well With Whisky

By Alessandra Frosoni.

This year I had a different kind of Easter: I went for a whisky experience and strolled by the Monkey Shoulder Chocolate Trail in Soho, an event at which I had the chance to taste great whisky-based cocktails paired with yummy chocolate. The link to Easter was the Egg hunt, which is how we claimed our cocktails.

During the event I discovered that the sweet, vanilla and brown sugar taste of a good whiskey – like Monkey Shoulder - matches heavenly with cardamom truffle (caramel and lemon chocolate), ginger and Cayenne pepper truffle, Masala chai truffle (spicy and bitter).

After the event I found myself wanting to learn more about whisky and food, so I launched myself into a bit of research.

First of all, it has to be said that on a general level sushi, Indian and BBQ cuisine are all good for mixing with whisky. Cheeses, smoked food, oysters, pickled foods, oats, bacon, jellies and, of course, chocolate are all outstanding when enjoyed with whisky.

One caution: be very careful in pairing hot and spicy foods with whisky. Spicy is okay, but anything too hot ruins the palate and finishes most drinks, including whisky.

The key is to understand what the basic whisky flavour profile is. A smoky, spicy tasting whisky pairs best with strong and salty. These types of whiskies work very well with smoked fish, steak or a salty besciamella sauce, for example.

If choosing a whisky with a more sweet taste, softer blends are much better. Cheese such as Brie or Camembert are the perfect counterpart, and sweet potatoes, water crackers, crème brulee or pastry are also excellent.

When thinking of specific whisky, I have learnt that it is excellent to combine the smoky and earthly characteristics of a Talisker 10-year old with baked salmon, and the pungent, muddy flavours of a Caol Ila 12-year old to chorizo and tuna.

Jack Daniels is brilliant when used to marinate pork loin and when making great sandwiches.

Many recipes even have whisky among their ingredients: pies, chocolate based desserts, pot roast gravy, potato salads, cheesecake.

To experience first hand the joy of whisky and food in London check out:
Tsuru Sushi which recently did a whisky tasting with Japanese whiskies
Pitt Cue Co., a BBQ and bourbon joint opened in January on Newburgh Street in Soho
Boisdale of Canary Wharf for one of the biggest whisky collections and prime steaks
Salt Whisky Bar for whisky and Indian foods

To discover more of London’s best whisky bars, click here.

Image courtesy of Flickr user [puamelia].

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

22 Whisky Stalls, 50 Whisky Distilleries, 200 Whiskies; It’s Whisky Lounge Fest 2012






























By Sophie Marie Atkinson.

Bringing whisky to the masses was the aim of the game for husband and wife duo Eddie and Amanda Ludlow – the brains and evangelists behind The Whisky Lounge – and succeed they certainly did. The Whisky Lounge recently turned the Royal Horticultural Halls in London into the place to be for all whisky aficionados.

According to fellow whisky fiend, Miss Whisky, who was also a hugely popular panelist at the event, 1,800 people (55% of which were under 30) came through the doors of the Whisky Lounge Fest in London’s Belgravia. Of those, 35% were female, 80% had never been to a whisky festival before, and 99% have said they will come back.

You can’t do much better than that!

Guests at the event were able to visit 22 stalls hosted by 50 distilleries and sample more than 200 divine whiskies as well as take part in range of special workshops including Women & Whisky; Come Dram with Me; A Magnificent Seven presentation of top whiskies; a deconstruction of the Glenfiddich Rich Oak whisky; and Beginner’s Guide to Whisky classes with The Whisky Lounge’s own Joe Clark.
Despite being a fan of whisky, I was personally intrigued by the latter as my knowledge of the subject in fairly poor and I have a tendency to rely on the nodding and smiling technique when other people talk dram technicalities. But thanks to the wonders of Joe Clark and The Whisky Lounge in general, I feel much more than confident blagging my way from a Jameson Select Reserve to a Highland Park single malt. And then some.
I also managed to grab the wonderful Amanda and Eddie to speak to them about their own personal highlights:


“The best part of the event for me was on Saturday afternoon once everyone was in and I was standing in front of the stage and Colin Dunn of Diageo came up to me with a dram of platinum label,” Amanda told me, “I just thought to myself ‘ah we’ve done it. We’ve brought whisky to the people of London and now people are bringing whisky to me!’”

While Eddie told me, “We were all utterly delighted to see that all of the blood, sweat and tears that went into the festival really paid off. The whole event was the best bit for me as I stood in wonderment at it all, but if pushed I would say speaking to the many customers who had never been to a whisky event before and seeing the event through their eyes; truly bringing whisky to the people.”

But what about their favourite drams of the weekend?

Eddie told me, “I honestly didn't have time to taste too much but our Caol Ila 1982 Single Cask still remains a favourite,” while Amanda admitted, “I am unfortunately hopeless devoted to Irish Whisky and my favourite dram from the 200+ on sample was Middleton Barry Crockett.”


If you can’t wait until The Whisky Lounge’s next epic event to sample some of these tipples, click here and discover the best whisky bars in London. Filled with ideas of places to visit to try a wee dram, there’s bound to be one to suit everyone’s taste.

To follow the whisky expertise of Miss Whisky, click here.

Images courtesy of www.image-revolver.com.

For further Whisky Lounge events, go to www.thewhiskylounge.com or follow them on Twitter @thewhiskylounge.








Friday, 4 May 2012

London’s 7 Best Brunches

A good brunch needs a good reason. All that fried fatty goodness demands a blood sugar level deficit to make up for, and that means a big night out before. Hey, it’s fine, it’s a treat. We know you won’t do it too often. But when you do, cut the decision-making, do your sore head a favour, and get yourself to one of these excellent establishments:
1) Troubadour, Earl’s Court
Vintage coffee pots wink at you from the front window, ‘50s and ‘60s enamel advertising lines the walls, and there’s dark wood and stained glass aplenty: this bohemian cave on Brompton Road is the perfect foil for jolting the sleep out of your eyes. Fab brunch options include the hangover helper (omelette with two fillings of your choice, salad and fries or toast), hippy crunch (muesli, Greek yoghurt, honey) or sliders to share, with six meatballs coming in toasted buns with green chilli sauce or cheese and mayo.
2) The Lido Café, Brockwell Park
Locals love this Art Deco gem next to the Brockwell Park’s outdoor pool, which grabbed Best Park Café in 2011’s Time Out Eating and Drinking Awards. Floor-to-ceiling windows simply drink in views of treetops and sparkling water, giving the place an easy-breezy, holiday camp feel; as if you’ve painted yourself into a nostalgic retro postcard. Menus are seasonal, but there’s always a spot on the list for free range full English or plus boiled egg and soldiers. Pour maple syrup liberally over their blueberry buttermilk pancakes for a sugar hit.
3) Bistrotheque, Bethnal Green
The place that made brunch cool. Housed in a sparse, warehouse-y space warmed up by candles, quality table linen and a chap belting out Rihanna on the piano; Bistrotheque turns morning-after post-mortems into a final hurrah for last night’s clubbing. Finding it’s a bit of a mission - it’s tucked down a side-street off Cambridge Heath Road, at the top of an elusively-marked flight of stairs – so once you sit down you’re more than ready to be rewarded. Lucky you: nibble on avocado on toast, a cheeseburger poshed-up with pancetta and caramelised onion, or even a school dinner pudding made good, rhubarb crumble and custard goes down a treat.
4) Towpath Café, Dalston
If London were a movie set, the Regent’s Canal towpath between Angel and Victoria Park would be a behind-the-scenes tour. This is where you can peer into peoples’ back gardens, or dodge their jogging/cycling work-out along the path, or walk inches from their sleeping heads in canal’s houseboats. It’s where London becomes a neighbourhood, and the Towpath Café serves that need with aplomb. A confident menu takes up the space of an A3 blackboard – try sage sausage sandwich on sourdough bread – and mismatched decor taps into the ‘hood’s hipster sensibilities. Nosh it sitting at a sunny table by the water and you’re in brunch heaven.
5) The Breakfast Club, Soho
A concept cooked up by two 80s kids with an almighty collection of troll dolls, the Breakfast Club started with one yolk-yellow store in Soho and now has offshoots in Hoxton, Angel and Spitalfields. Step in to the Soho store and let the happy vibes and cartoonish carrot model at the bar charm the muddle out of your head before you even get a whiff of food. Pancakes get their own menu, so style them up as sweet (maple syrup, vanilla cream) or savoury (ham, egg and cheddar or bacon, hash brown, sausage and maple syrup) to taste.
6) Gazette Brasserie, Battersea
Brunch at Gazette Brasserie offers a certain ooh la la, with the café’s insides dolled up like a farmhouse kitchen in Brittany. Choose from Madeleines with honey or chocolate sauce, crepes stuffed with ham, egg and cheese, croque monsieurs or madames, or keep it simple with croissants and pain au chocolate. Big hangover, fancy tastes? A Full French will help you say non to that punched-in-the-head feeling: ham, omelette, sautéed potatoes with pancetta and mushroom, confied cherry tomatoes, brie and salad all wrestle for space on the plate. Use this calendar to book your brunch.


7) Duck Egg Café, 424 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London SW9 8LF
This café does what it says on the sign. You want duck eggs, they got ‘em by the basketful. Larger, yolkier and richer than hens’ eggs (which you can opt for too, for £1 less), a duck egg glistening across your fry-up makes you feel like a modern-day Henry VIII. Opening just for breakfast and lunch, there are usually queues out the door, and the shoebox space means you’ll probably end up sharing a table. For a more delicate brunch, try the eggs Benedict or Florentine and wash down with freshly squeezed orange juice.


Isabel Clift is a London-based travel writer. She edits the blog at HostelBookers.com, who specialise in budget travel advice, hostels and cheap London hotels.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Live Music, Comedy, Art, Film, Wine, Food: Is There Anything London’s Cafe Bars Wont Do?

By James McManus.

XOYO is a notorious East End nightspot for the fun, loose and fancy free. You'd normally associate this joint with sweat-filled young hipsters dancing their troubles away to barely intelligible techno, but that's all changed now.
The much-vaunted venue has launched a new upstairs bar called XO (above) complete with innovative art space which is set to host a wide-range of events five nights-a-week. While the bar acts as a dual purpose venue for both live acts and DJs, as well as the occasional tipple hang out, the creative pursuits don't end there as the avenues of comedy, film and poetry all look set to get their due.

I'm in a sharing mood. Some would call me almost pathologically generous, so here are a few more examples of venues that combine live music, a chilled atmosphere and a bite to eat should your belly be a-rumblin'.
The Troubadour (above) in west London is a superb venue brimming with history and pedigree. Normally when a venue dips its toes into more than one area of expertise, it leaves something to be desired elsewhere. However, this atmospheric cafe serves proper food while acting as a useful conduit to the creative scene that can be found habitually habitating within its four walls.
If it's ambient scuzz you're looking for - and let's not kid ourselves here, what else better is there? - then The Notting Hill Arts Club (pictured above) could be the place for you, with its basement bar, underground scene and and genre-defined nights with a heavy emphasis on the niche.
In a culturally diverse hotpot such as London, there are, of course, many options to pick and choose between, such as the aforementioned venues, as well as Cafe 1001 (pictured above) situated on Brick Lane in east London. It flits seemlessly between chilled bar, live music haunt, and cafe during the day and evening, much in the same vein as XO.

To discover more of London's best bars, clubs, pubs and cafes for live music, click this link

Image courtesy of Flickr user doubleoh2, Simon Archer Hurlstone, and 66james99.