Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Top Of The Pop-Ups: Bars That Keep Popping Up In London

By Nina Koo-Seen-Lin.

In the rather leafy, residential part of Rotherhithe, round the corner from the station, I’ve discovered what I’ve always thought of as my personal heaven: an English country garden full of lavender, with exotic looking birds on gently swaying trees, and a bar with cocktails on constant flow.

I’ve just come through the garden gate and up the patio steps to the Midnight Apothecary, Brunel Museum’s rooftop pop-up bar. Run by the lovely Lottie, the bar is open every Saturday from 5pm to late (as late as the local residents will allow themselves to revel in the sounds of summer cheers). The aroma of lavender lingers in the air and is intensified by the floral infused cocktails. The atmosphere is chilled, the sound of busy London is replaced with laughter, and the August setting sun still emits enough warmth to keep the evening chill away.

What’s so special about the Midnight Apothecary pop-up is that it’s set in a museum which, in itself, is a bit out of the ordinary, but it’s also accompanied (for an extra fiver) by a Grand Entrance Hall tour. This is no standard tour around a museum dedicated to the Thames Tunnel – the world’s first tunnel under a river built by Marc Brunel and his son, Isambard Kingdom - no, no. This tour involves going down a shaft (through a tiny door) and down a maze of scaffolding to reach an underground room that was the former entrance to the tunnel. Robert, the tour leader, provides an animated and passionate history of the tunnel, beginning with a, “welcome to the 8th wonder of the world!”

Currently, the room is being used as a lecture room for the museum tour. In time it’ll host concerts and talks. The acoustics will be pitched perfect. Just like the alcoholic potions inspired by the latest summer petals.

The Midnight Apothecary (pictured right and above, courtesy of Eleanor Salter Thorn) is a feast for the senses and it’s one that everyone should experience before the summer is out (the end of September to be precise). Summer has arrived but let’s face it, it’s not a season that sticks around.

Now you have a taste for pop-up bars, here’s my Top of the Pop Ups Top 5 Summer Bars in London (cue Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”)

Ales and Tails, Twickenham
Ales and Tales is a pop up craft beer and cocktail house open from early August. It’s the half sister of the famous Citizen Smith Putney, so expect quirky girls in pretty frocks and handsome men in collared shirts and classic jeans.
Ales and Tails, 29-31 York Street, Twickenham, TW1 3JZ

The Dead Dolls Club, Helmsley Place
The dolls from The Dead Doll’s Club (below) are having an affair to remember with the London Fields Brewery; a summer affair, to be frank. Every Saturday they open their doors. The dead dolls make good food. The brewery makes good booze. No booking or entrance fee and open from midday to midnight, even Cinderella won’t miss out on anything.
The Dead Dolls Club, The London Fields Brewery, 370 Helmsley Place, E8 3RR
Images courtesy of Giovanna Del Sarto.

Frank’s Café and Campari Bar, Peckham 
Everyone’s heading across the Thames and down south because South London has a heck of a lot to offer in terms of booze, bars and having a blast. Franks Café pop-up (below) opens every summer. Based on the tenth floor of a multi-storey car park in Peckham as part of the Bold Tendencies Sculpture Project, it’s not as glitzy and definitely no as glam sounding as some other pop-ups. But what it lacks in über coolness it makes up for with an urban cool vibe. Views of London, Campari cocktails and creative works of art. This is the place to be. Open until September.
Frank’s Café, 10th floor Peckham multi-storey car park, 95a Rye Lane, Peckham, SE15 4ST
Images courtesy of Flickr users Delaina Haslam and katsommers

Propstore Café Bar, National Theatre, South Bank
Play spot the prop at the National Theatre’s latest production, the riverside Propstore Café Bar (below). Get up close (and maybe a bit personal) to a collection of thingummy bobs from the theatre’s plays including puppets from War Horse, the crocodile from Peter Pan and a few limbs from Frankenstein. All props play a supporting role to the menu. The snooker table top covered bar serves Meantime draught beer, English wines and cocktails made with Sipsmith spirits. Until September.
Propstore café Bar, National Theatre, South Bank, Belvedere Road, SE1 9PX
Images courtesy of Flickr users Guy Tyler and simonsimplese16

Roof Garden Café/Bar, Queen Elizabeth Hall
Are you feeling green-fingered and do you have a head for heights? Well The Queen Elizabeth Hall is the place to be in the last few hazy days of summer (I’d say you’ve got until September). Designed by the Eden project - the décor includes an allotment growing vegetables from around the world, a mini olive grove and wild flowers - and run by Company of Cooks, this hidden haven (below) serves very well as the South Bank’s secret sanctuary. Open from 10 in the morning to 10 at night the café serves savoury and sweet food while the bar mixes up some summer concoctions including the classic Pimm’s (glass or pitcher), an elderflower cup, and pale ale. Every Tuesday, from 11am to 1pm you can get your hands dirty and learn how to grow your own vegetables with the Drop-in Gardening class. Afterwards, reward yourself with a glass of Prosseco and a pastry snack.
Roof Garden Café/Bar, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX
Image courtesy of Flickr user Diamond Geezer

To discover some of London’s best pop-up restaurants, click here.

Monday, 20 August 2012

12 New Bars & Restaurants in London: A Pictorial

By Christian Rose-Day.

2012 has been yet another bumper year for new bars, restaurants, pubs and clubs in London, many of which we’ve already told you about.

This time, it's Monday, and we're a bit hungover so instead of just telling you about them, we’d thought we’d just show you what they look like instead. Have fun discovering.

New restaurant: 28-50 Wine Workshop and Kitchen, Marylebone
All you need to know: 30 wines by the glass, carafe or bottle. Glug, glug.

New pub: The Draft House, Dulwich
All you need to know: south west London’s beer haven heads south east; and look, there’s a Brooklyn Brewery Chocolate Stout on the menu that packs a 10% thump.

New cafe: Caravan, King’s Cross
All you need to know: if you enjoyed the Exmouth Market version, you’ll be sipping coffee and eating brunch here in no time.

New cafe: Ozone Coffee Roasters, Shoreditch
All you need to know: the same team behind The Riding House Café and Pizza East, designed this café, and it stocks New Zealand coffee.

New bar and club: White Rabbit cocktail bar, Stoke Newington
All you need to know: there’s a basement club called The Rabbit Hole, no less.

New bar: Brooklyn Bite, Chelsea
All you need to know: New York style pizza in a New York style basement cocktail bar, only without the haul-ass 7-hour flight.

New restaurant: Kerbisher and Malt, Ealing
All you need to know: its big brother branch was crowned the Best Contemporary Fish and Chip restaurant in Great Britain by Esquire magazine. No pressure li’l bro.

New restaurant: Cinnamon Culture, Bromley
All you need to know: the chef’s special is a Goan Coastal Cuisine Festival and lasts until the end of August.

New restaurant: Heliot, Leicester Square
All you need to know: how many casino restaurants have views over the gaming floor AND offer cocktails designed by Tony Conigliaro, of all people?

New bar and restaurant: Boqueria, Brixton
All you need to know: A new Spanish tapas restaurant and bar that is ideally located equidistance between Clapham and Brixton; best of both worlds.

New restaurant: Low Country, Fulham
All you need to know: steaks and seafood from the southern states of the good old US of A.

New cafe: Georgina’s, Barnes
All you need to know: the perfect cafe for a post-stroll along the Thames seeing as it is only 100m from the water’s edge.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The Sunday Gluttony: 5 Of London’s Top Hangover Pubs & Restaurants

By Laura Collins.

The answers to Sunday lunch gluttony: London restaurants that feed the weekend greed.

Sundays are synonymous with lots of things - hangovers, the Sunday night fear, homework - but a huge lunch has got to be the one factor that is uniform in everybody’s Sunday. The famed afternoon feast is a weekly highlight in diaries across the world. For as long as I can remember Sundays have always been about food, whether I was tucking into my mum’s Sunday roast, indulging in my grandmother’s weekly buffet, or gorging on the remnants of anything edible in my student fridge. Even now, as I border on hitting 30, Sundays are still known for grazing. They are for eating, socialising and, more often than not, nursing a sore head. Finding the best pubs and restaurants in London to placate these gluttonous Sunday urges is, in itself, a pleasure best enjoyed on the weekend.

My most recent Sunday find is Mayfair’s award winning restaurant, Tamarind, an elegant establishment that makes for an excellent Sunday afternoon hideaway. With so much exquisite food on offer, the place really meets my Sunday greed criteria, plus the pretty, calming interior soothes my aching head.

On a Sunday, it seems Tamarind is a restaurant where gluttonous behaviour is almost obligatory. The restaurant offers a four-course set Sunday menu which, for £32 per person, makes Michelin starred dining much more affordable. There is also the huge a la carte menu that offers pages of choice.

The selection of kababs are particularly good, especially the Kalonji Jihnga (or jumbo tiger prawn). Jumbo is probably an understatement; enormous would be more apt. All food served is light and tasty and the staff are friendly and attentive, just what I need when I’m feeling delicate. The only downside is the basement location, which doesn’t allow for al fresco or naturally lit dining, but I will happily forgo this for a few hours of delicious food. Book yourself a Sunday lunch at Tamarind using the reservation calendar below: If high end Indian cuisine in Mayfair isn’t your ideal Sunday scene, there are plenty of other choices in London. This city is crammed with venues boasting a fantastic Sunday lunch offering.

The Selkirk pub in Tooting (above) is a particularly great place for something a little less grand and a bit more British, especially if the sun is shining. The pub’s garden houses a number of picnic benches as well as a grassy area with a few deck chairs. Hidden in a residential street off the main shopping area of Tooting Broadway, The Selkirk pub is a quiet and relaxed gastro pub not yet discovered by the masses. It is frequented by a mixed crowd and is often a favourite with young families. The Sunday menu offers a choice of top quality pub food, which is sure to satisfy every taste.

For something more colourful try Seven at Brixton (above), a small but vibrant tapas and pintxos bar located on Market Row, Brixton Village’s lesser celebrated companion. The venue’s quirky charm starts with the deck chairs and picket fence that adorn the front of the bar and continues upstairs where Seven has rooms that are used as free exhibition space for local artists. Seven is a particular favourite because the range of reasonably priced Pintxos and tapas on offer means I can take my pick of different foods, ideal for those indecisive afternoons. There is also a great selection of cocktails and board games, including the much favoured Guess Who.

Having plenty of food to choose from is a high priority on a Sunday, and another pleasing restaurant is Ping Pong, a dim sum restaurant that offers oodles of choice. Ping Pong hosts my perfect vision of a hungover afternoon, something they term ‘Lazy Sumday’. For £20.95 per person, diners can eat all the dim sum they can manage. There is also the option of having a free cocktail with the Lazy Sumday menu if ordered between 12 and 1pm. Ping Pong has nine venues across the city, with favourite outlets found in Soho, Market Place and Westbourne Grove.

A round up of perfect Sunday lunch venues wouldn’t be complete without mentioning one that serves a damn fine roast, because some weekends you just have to indulge the traditional way. And when roasts are on a two for one offer who can resist?

The Winchester pub in Islington (above) is bustling and cosy and the ideal pub in which to while away a few hours, especially if you’re feeling the brunt of a busy, lively weekend. With a choice of four roast dinners – beef, lamb, chicken and five bean – there are options for all tastes. The two for one offer is available from 1pm – 9.30pm so there is plenty of time to take advantage. And if you’re in there for the duration, then The Winchester can also offer entertainment in the form of board games; a wonderful accompaniment to a few bloody Marys on a lazy Sunday.

So there’s a brief overview of some favourite Sunday hot spots. All these venues serve up top notch tucker fit to soak up the heaviest of weekends and are bound to be a hit with anybody who has eating and socialising at the top of their Sunday agenda.

Images courtesy of Flickr users Ewan-M, J Mark Dodds a shadow of my future self, Yelp.com, HotelPRGuy and Ben Sutherland

Thursday, 2 August 2012

London’s Top 3 Food & Drink Trends

By Anna Robin.

Oh I do love a good trend. After years of denying my slavery to fashion I have finally decided, I give in. I know I am not carving my own path but following the herd. Something new and exciting comes along and I just have to try it, taste it, drink it, smear it on a bagel, etc.

If you think you are unaffected by trends just think of the jeans you have owned: flares, low rise, boyfriend jeans, skinny jeans, jeans on your hips, jeans on your waist, ripped jeans, coloured jeans, white jeans. And do you remember tamagotchis? Don’t tell me you didn’t have one.

At the moment London seems to be bursting with foodie trends, and they are moving fast. Here are my top 3:

Vans Dishing Out Street Food
Traditionally, food out of a van was a greasy overpriced burger and chips at 3am when you stumbled out of some hideous club and a chicken burger with flaccid onions, for that regrettable microsecond, had the appeal of a medium rare steak. But now Food Vans mean: gourmet pizzas, pulled pork and cocktails. Oh my! Food vans are basically good restaurants with wheels. In fact, some of these street food vehicles are doing so well that, on the back of their street food van business, they have opened an actual static restaurant, such as Pitt Cue Co. in Soho migrating from the Southbank, and Meatliquor in Marylebone. Sometimes they group together, sometimes they roll out alone, but they are definitely a new breed. For the next trend I hope all the street food vans get a theme song like ice cream vans and roam the city with a stream of foodies running after them.

Supper Clubs
In abandoned buildings, on roof tops (such as Forza Win), in people’s houses, or secret locations (such as the Gingerline HQ, pictured above), supper clubs are popping up all over London. It’s like going to a dinner party but with better food and you can’t bring your own booze. Picking from a menu is so 2010. These days the London trend is to turn up and have three delectable courses placed in front of us, one after the other, maybe with some matched beer, wine or a cocktail.

Micro Breweries
I have tried brewing beer. It’s meant to be easy. You put it in a tub somewhere and it ferments. Unfortunately I forgot about it for 6 months and therefore managed to make some sort of explosive beer treacle. Clearly making beer isn’t for me but drinking good beer is something I am very adept at, and it’s getting easier. My local pub is suddenly stocking home grown London brews on tap and there are some great recent pub openings that have clearly focused on the local stocking option such as The North Pole (pictured above) in Angel & Islington and Camden Town Brewery.

Better check these out before the next new trends emerge and all the pubs start stocking wine made from bananas, every hip restaurant serves dessert first, and dial-a-vans park outside your house to bring cocktails to your door.

You read it here first.

Meat Wagon image courtesy of Flickr user Richard Moross.