Tuesday, 26 June 2012

A Brief Class In Cocktails By The Girl At The Bar Who Did 5 In 1 Night

By Nina Koo-Seen-Lin.

It started with a Balans Bellini and ended with a delectable Daiquiri.

‘I did five in one night!’ I proudly crowed the next morning while in the office. I was nursing my head with a cup of black filter coffee, but still smiling because I, Miss Nina Koo-Seen-Lin, had done five in one night. cocktails, that is (minds out the gutter, please!)

For Miss Nina Koo-Seen-Lin, last Tuesday was an evening devoted to the Cocktail Making Class at Balans in Earls Court. The mission: to learn the talent and tricks of the trade to rival Tom Cruise in the movie, Cocktail. The outcome: five beautiful cocktails, drunk to the dregs and a very woozy journey home for one Miss Nina Koo-Seen-Lin.

Balans already had a buzzing atmosphere at 6:30pm, a brilliant food menu (just one glance at the starters and I was salivating), a great selection of wines, and a bar stocked with bottles of every spirit imaginable. Balans is one of those.

I perched by the bar not just because I was desperate for alcohol (although the Bellini waiting for me next to my cocktail making set, along with the food platter of toasted pitta slices, dips and olives, was rather inviting) but because I was one of the students in the cocktail making class. If you’ve ever thought you might like to take an evening class, this might be it.

By the end of my tutorial I knew how to mix up the perfect Bloody Mary cocktail, muddle the mint in a Mojito cocktail, mash out all the juice from limes for a Cosmopolitan or Margarita cocktail, and make a Martini French cocktail. Along the way I picked up one or two historical facts about the tipples I’d made, courtesy of mixologist, Dylan. I forgot them all. Luckily the beautiful blokes at Balans (they really are stunningly handsome and have the gentlemanly manners to match) printed off a handy blurb about each cocktail (in chronological order) and their recipes.
Bloody Mary: Started life out as the Oyster cocktail or Tomato Juice cocktail. It was a virgin cocktail (ie free from alcohol) until randy George Jessel came along and spiked the drink with vodka in the 1930s. If you make it with gin it becomes a Red Snapper. Tequila turns it into a Bloody Maria.
Mojito: A Cuban drink that’ll turn you into a suave British spy (James Bond made the drink fashionable back in 2002 when he drank one in Die Another Day).
Cosmoplitan: “I’ve got love for you if you were born in the 80s!” So says Calvin Harris. In that case, he loves the Cosmopolitan, a concoction thought to have been created in the decade that also gave us Pac-Man, New Kids on the Block and Fraggle Rock.

Snack interval including platters of calamari, spring rolls, and fried dumplings, light bites for the lightweights. Always accepted. Always gobbled up in minutes.
Margarita: Nobody really knows the origin of this cocktail's name. Options include a Tequila drinking showgirl or a Dallas socialite. It is the most called-for cocktail from the sour family of drinks. Rimming the glass tumbler with salt causes all sorts of tittering innuendos between students.
French Martini: An imposter of a Martini! Chambord, the French liqueur company, created the drink for a world wide promotion. As a result it kick-started the flavoured Martini revolution in the 90s (the less sophisticated made do with alco-pops).
And there we have it. My five in one night. And it only cost £20pp (that’s a four quid per cocktail people!). And because my class were all A Graders we were each rewarded with a strawberry Daiquiri. It was beautifully refreshing but it did add an extra shade of pink to my already flushed face.

The cocktail class is for everyone: groups of girlfriends, hen parties, dates or those wanting to learn some impressive Tom Cruise skills. Well, it was either the cocktail class or the how-to-hang-of-a-cliff-edge-with-no-harness class. It was a Tuesday, after all.

To discover more cocktail classes in London, click here.

Friday, 15 June 2012

How Not To Behave At A Penthouse Rooftop Party In Mayfair

By Imogen Rowland

“I can’t really talk now, Mum. I’m at the penthouse party at The May Fair Hotel.”

These are words I didn’t really expect to be sprouting, if I’m honest. But as a writer-about-town, who am I to turn down an invite to one of London’s finest hotels (as seen in the video above) and purveyors of one of my favourite tipples, the ever-divine passion fruit martini, to schmooze with the upper echelons of London’s party scene? It’s just the kind of selfless, dedicated, tireless writer I am, dontcha know.

At this sort of party, where if I’m not careful I will stick out like the proverbially afflicted thumb, I tend to observe my fellow guests and allow them to dictate the decorum. Admittedly, this has not always ended well.
Those more raucous occasions have been fun, but the boss doesn’t really consider “but the socialites were doing it” as a viable excuse for my attending the office with breath that presents a fire-hazard the next morning.

However, I do think that people-watching is one of the best ways to spend an evening upon such occasions, and is a near-foolproof way of eliciting social dos and don’ts without looking like the imposter I so clearly am.

Take her, over there, for example. The one chugging champers like it was Nesquik and guffawing like a hyena at that gentleman’s attempted jokes. She is not hitting the right tone. You can tell she’ll be one of the ones cat-fighting for the last remaining goody bag later.

And him, on the balcony. He’s doing his best to act all nonchalant like he’s a regular (it’s the penthouse, buddy. Only Tara P-T and the MIC crew can claim that kind of thing) but really he’s here because his website is barely breaking even and this promises hot food and a roof over his head for a good proportion of the evening.

Her over by the window, now she’s got it right. Turning down the offer of canapĂ©s at every opportunity, delicately sipping Champagne with her nose upturned and occasionally affecting a sarcastic smile for the acquaintance of Daddy’s whom she’d really rather not have to speak to. She couldn’t look less impressed to be up here.

But the girl by the canapĂ© table; she’s the worst. Glugging fizzy as if it was going out of fashion, downing lobster and duck morsels like she’s never been fed and staring agog at all of the other guests; it’s so embarrassing. She even has the gall to eyeball me with exactly the same look of incredulity I’m giving her! And she’s wearing the same top as me – bloody Zara – and her hand is travelling towards the exact same quail egg as I’m after. Hang on, she looks quite familiar actually.



I think I may have some way to go before I fit in at this kind of event. On the plus side, though, the goody bag was well worth the ruckus.

To discover some of London’s best rooftop terraces and gardens, click here.


Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Right Restaurant For Celebrating The Queen’s 86th Birthday?

By Philippa Morton.

It’s the Queen’s 86th birthday weekend, and her 60th year of reign. Regally celebrated with boat pageants, concerts, processions and, most importantly, two bank holidays. I like the Royal family, but just because they’re Royal and born into privilege doesn’t actually make them Royal. And just because the rest of us are ‘commoners’ doesn’t make us common. But at least we’re not judged by the whole world on our every inch, action and outfit.

Quite frankly, I couldn’t care less how old the Queen is, and I couldn’t care less that she has ‘worked’ for Great Britain and the Commonwealth for 60 years. Come on, why don’t you just say it? I know there are plenty of you who agree.

What I DO care about is finding a great excuse to celebrate and there’s hardly a more appropriate venue to celebrate The Queen’s 86th birthday than Eighty-Six (86) restaurant in Kensington (pictured below).
As well as The Queen’s 86th birthday, Eighty-Six restaurant is celebrating the addition of a new head chef, Simon Levy. A vast and varied culinary career has resulted in Eighty-Six’s stunning menu. Take, for instance, a starter of vodka and gin cured salmon. Follow on with mains of monkfish, which I found to be set off heavenly with a crispy curl of pork crackling, followed by stuffed saddle of rabbit. It comes as no surprise then that Simon Levy has worked in some of the most prestigious London venues, such as Koffman’s, catering to London’s most glamorous.
But as we all know, the rich (or the Royals) aren’t the only glamorous people in London. Take for instance, the staff at Eighty-Six; just as divine and equally delicious as the food they serve, they impressively match refined tastes in wine with various dishes, whatever your penchant. It was so easy to sneak a nice peak while pretending to be fascinated by the curious ceiling covered in framed mirrors. Lol. Hopefully they realised how glamorous I was too.

It would be wise not to miss out on a night celebrating at Eighty-Six. Perhaps you like to describe food with such phrases as “refined tastes”, “hued flavours”, and “infused blends”. Or perhaps you like to say “small food on a big plate that is just delicious”. Whoever you are, be Royal or Common, isn’t it wonderful that we can all participate in the wondrous lustre of life with splendourous restaurants such as Eighty-Six?

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Why Argentinean Wines Are Like Naked Women In The Shower

By Charlotte Santry

They’re unorthodox, deep and expressive, leave you daydreaming about sexy wet flesh, age well, love steak, and won’t have you regretting anything the morning after. What isn’t there to love about Argentinean Uco Valley wines?

I’ve been an adoring fan ever since a trip to the region three years ago, and even served the stuff at my wedding, at which everything else – even the “champagne” – was sourced close to the Cornish venue.

So the chance to sample some of the Uco Valley’s most luxurious (ie pricey) export wines in the airy tasting room above The Troubadour Gallery, which adjoins the legendary The Troubadour restaurant and music venue, was too good to miss.

The nerdy bit
In a nutshell, Uco Valley grapes are grown 1,200m above sea level in the Andes, near Mendoza, Argentina, and benefit from a cooler, drier than average climate that helps them to ripen slowly, meaning they develop rich, fruity flavours.

The Troubadour’s exuberant director of wines, Atilio Falco, puts it more colourfully: “It’s like when you see a woman coming out of the shower. She’s showing all her natural beauty.” Similarly, with these wines, “we see all the naked expression of the grape,” he explains.

Decide for yourself. Here's a picture of a lady in the courtesy of Flickr user SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget.

And here's a picture of Argentinean Uco Valley grapes courtesy of Flickr user T. Chen.


Having indulged the Sapphic fantasies of the well turned-out ladies of Kensington, Atilio gets to the REALLY good bit about Uco Valley wines.

Brilliantly, they don’t require as many nasty pesticides and preservatives as wines grown in hotter regions that suffer from bug infestations. According to some experts, this reduces the level of sulphites in the wine, minimising the hangover effect.

Without the worry of hangovers, we race through a massive 10 varieties of wine produced by the Mauricio Lorca winery. Don’t worry; we slosh tons of it away into the buckets provided, if only to get to the £60-a-pop stuff more quickly. And one bottle is corked, so our tally’s reduced to a mere nine glasses.

Fun fact:
One in 20 bottles of wine is corked, though only one in 200 of these is detected.

At least I think this was the stat. My notes get progressively spindly as the evening wears on. One page simply has the phrase “cat’s piss” sprawled across it.

Actually, I wasn’t being rude; it turns out cat’s pee is a bona fide oenological term to describe the smell of many wines, including very good ones.

The evening technically culminates with the Inspirado 2008, an appropriately rich, decadent blend of four grape types. However, the real climax of the night is a surprise appearance by the “wine maverick” Mr Mauricio Lorca himself, who has flown in from Mendoza and tells Fluid London that, despite his “maverick” reputation, his favourite place to grab food (and, no doubt, a decent Malbec) in London is the Gaucho chain of Argentinean restaurants.

By the end of the evening my friend and I are sufficiently impressed - and tipsy - to ask if we can buy bottles of the Fantasia Malbec 2011 and Fantasia Torrentes 2011.

Alas, they’re sold out, so we head even further downstairs to The Troubadour’s chasmal basement, to drown our sorrows; with a glass of wine. Isn’t that what most people do after a wine-tasting evening? Time to test out that “no hangover” theory.

6 Venues To Swig Argentinean Wine In London
1) The Troubadour restaurant and music venue, naturally.
2) Moo grill and bar near Liverpool Street
3) Gaucho Argentinean restaurants at various locations around London.
4) Santa Maria Del Sur restaurant in Battersea
5) Garufa restaurant in Highbury
6) Constancia restaurant in Bermondsey

Monday, 11 June 2012

How To Turn A Dutchman British In One London Weekend

By Laura Collins.

Us Brits are known for many things and there are certain characteristics we should be proud of. Our great sense of humour, our politeness, and our ability to keep a stiff upper lip are positive qualities we can pat ourselves on the back for. One certain trait that isn’t to be boasted about, however, is the weather. Still, no nation is perfect and I for one am feeling rather proud to be British this year, what with The Queen’s Jubilee celebrations and the 2012 London Olympic Games.

So when my Dutch friend, Tim, said he wanted to come over to London during the Jubilee weekend I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to show off what being British is all about. Plus, with the rare 28 degree heat we’d been experiencing, I couldn’t wait to show him just how Great Britain is great.

Cue dark skies, cold winds and torrential rain. So proud. Instead I relied on the city-wide celebrations to demonstrate how special the weekend could be and, with two tickets to the Bourne and Hollingsworth’s Diamond Jubilee Party in my hand, I hoped luck was on my side. Persuading a Dutchman to go to an outdoor party in heavy downpours is not easy. Believe me, I could understand his hesitation.

Set in the picturesque surroundings of Bedford Square, the Bourne and Hollingsworth’s Diamond Jubilee Party aimed to capture the true spirit of the uniquely British occasion. By encapsulating everything typically British and bringing it all together in one leafy, but rather waterlogged, garden, the event couldn’t have been more patriotic.

After dragging a slightly unenthusiastic Dutchman to the event, I was ecstatic to see it full of people embracing all our British values. There was a coconut shy standing proudly (if a little unused) in the rain, people in their wellies playing croquet under umbrellas, floorshows, games and even a large but sheltered BBQ smoking away. Added to this there was a beauty tent, quizzes and competitions, live music – accordion player included – a buzzing Bourne and Hollingsworth pop-up bar (Pimms and G and T’s were obligatory) and a tea and cake table (as standard).

The best bits, however, were the marquees that were emblazoned with Union Jacks and crammed full of Brits who proved that London could hold a darn good knees up in any weather. As a nation we have learnt many a time that we can’t let the weather dampen our spirits, especially not the alcoholic kind, as this event proved. Even Tim the Dutchman embraced the British attitude. He got cosy in the marquee, tucked into a hefty Aberdeen burger and drank cups of tea; although, by asking for tea without milk, he proved that I still had a little way to go. You can take the Dutch boy out of Amsterdam, but.

Despite the weather being a right royal washout, the event really proved that us Brits can keep the stiff upper lip we’re known to have. Bourne and Hollingsworth showed that anybody can enjoy British patriotism, even the Dutch, and with Tim by my side I couldn’t have felt more British.

The good news is that Bourne and Hollingsworth hold other typically British events that are ideal for everyone - such as the Prohibition parties and The Fourth Wall - especially when the weather is bad and one’s patriotism is lacking. Taking a Dutch friend is, of course, optional but it certainly helps the British spirit and sense of pride.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Burlesque To Boylesque In London: Only One Tassel Needed

By Rebecca Brett.

There’s something very sexy about seeing a gorgeous, curvy lady jumping up and down on stage in nothing but a sparkly thong and glittery nipple tassels. No man or woman can say they don’t love a bit of burlesque. Over the last couple of years there’s been a real boom of bouncing babes in barely-there outfits, but what about the boys? What about us girls and gays who want to see ripple-chested men thrusting around semi-naked showing us their pert posteriors?

I appreciate a beautiful naked lady just as much as the next person but there has been a definite lack of naked men (that doesn’t involve a trip to see the Dreamboys) in London.

Until now.

Welcome to the world of Boylesque. Yes, boylesque. According to one of its stars, a certain Equador the Wizard, “Boylesque is like Burlesque, only with boys and only 1 tassel” and if there’s anyone to trust when it comes to boylesque, it’s this guy. I saw him at Scala back in 2009 when he won best new male at the London Burlesque Festival. It was quite a surprise to see a male torso on stage after so many beautiful boobs, and this wizard was magical in a plethora of willy-spinning ways.

So when an invite popped in to my inbox offering dinner and spandex-covered men, there was no way I was going to miss more of the same! I grabbed an equally excitable friend/sex fiend and headed along to The Brickhouse on Brick Lane for a night of Wham! Bam! Kaboom! A superhero boylesque show hailing all the way from Seattle.
The show - featuring the effeminate Paris Original (below bottom), the handsomely beautiful (in a way that both men and women would find him attractive) Luminous Pariah (above), and big strong burly Trojan Original (below) - is an engaging show of striptease, dance, comedy running-man moves and song from busty babe and story-teller for the evening, Leeni (that's her at the top).

The plot follows the sexy crime-busting trio as they fight against an evil swan that has bitten Leeni (who also pops up as 90’s heroines Celine Dion, Bjork and Cher) and plans to take over the world. Still with me? If you’re not, pay a visit yourself and it will all become clear.

The show, running until June 18th 2012, starts at 9pm. It’s £10 on a Saturday or free if you turn up before 7:30pm for a few drinks on a Friday night.

For the peckish amongst you, you can get the show AND a 4-course meal from £37.50, which includes dishes such as the delectable and unassuming French bean salad, fresh Sardinian fish melange and rhubarb and ice cream dessert. You can book this offer using the reservations calendar below.

Aside from the sexy quartet at The Brickhouse, man-hungry ladies (and gays) can get more rippled chest, taut thigh and burly bicep action elsewhere in London. Here’s the best of the rest:

Dinner and dance will never be the same again after you’ve been to Volupte, where you can join Gracie and the G-Spots as well as magical crystal ball guy Matt Hennem and boylesque star Spencer Maybe for a 3-course dinner with a difference. Shows are every week and cost £50 (inc dinner), for a list of show dates check out their website.

Celebrate the half way mark through the working week and head to the famous Madame Jo Jo’s for Tranny Shack, which pretty much does what it says on the tin! The avant-garde cabaret club night takes place every Wednesday with drag queens, gender illusionists and transsexuals galore. Not for the feint hearted, the debaucherous night is hosted by The Very Miss Dusty ‘O’. You can’t get dinner here but entry is just £5 or if you’re feeling adventurous, go there in drag and get in for free!

No mention of boylesque is the same without a bit of Bearlesque, for ladies who prefer cuddly and hairy to lean and mean. The Dream Bears - comprising of three larger-than-life guys, Justin, Luke and Rob - are an all-bear dance, burlesque and cabaret troupe. Flashdance will never be the same way again, thanks to these three hairy guys in itsy bitsy leotards. With rave reviews from the Britain’s Got Talent judges, these guys are a must. Check them out performing on the last Saturday of every month at Guilty Pleasures at KOKO in Camden.

And you ever tire of boylesque, you can always return to old faithful: the girls of burlesque. To discover burlesque venues in London, click here.