Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Sober In London: In Search Of The Best London Bars For Mocktails

7 London cocktail bars serving imaginative mocktails to mugs like me, courtesy of Christian Rose-Day.

Lock your door, don’t leave the house, stay away from cash points and under no circumstances go anywhere near a pub, a bar, an off license, or a petrol garage offering deals on booze. Learn to love your Lovefilm subscription, reconnect with old friends on Facebook, clear out ‘that’ drawer in the kitchen containing old batteries, screws and bits of string, and, failing that, go play with yourself. Whatever you need to do, stay dry.

And so the struggle of the teetotaler living in London continues. It’s been nearly one month since my last alcoholic beverage and I’m already sick to death of Shirley Temple and Virgin Mary cocktails. I’d go so far as not even talking to anyone called Shirley or Mary right now.

As mentioned in my previous blog, I am on the mightiest of missions; my intention: to only drink non-alcoholic drinks from New Year’s Day until 2 minutes after completing the Virgin London Marathon on Sunday 21st April 2013, when I will down half a can of Shandy Bass and promptly pass out from inebriation.

Until then, I must attempt to maintain a life, and worse still, a career. I write about bars and restaurants for a living. Not drinking is not easy.

The mocktail is now my new best friend - aside from Beck’s Blue, that is - and here is a handy list of bars in London that I intend to visit for the purposes of keeping my sanity, my friends, and my job in reasonable shape, in part thanks to the provision of alcohol-free cocktails alongside their more sinful cocktail menu options.
Juju in Chelsea
This swanky bar-club on the King’s Road in west London not only provides its customers with a pan-Asian food menu, and not only won the ‘Best DJ Bar’ accolade at the London Club and Bar Awards in 2012, but it also boasts a Mocktail menu containing 9 choices, for only £6.50 a pop, and including the Orange Bomb, Buck Up Your Act, and French Kiss.

Mint Leaf in the West End
This Indian restaurant on Haymarket is popular with the pre-theatre, post-work crowd in central London and the exotic taste of the East comes through in its spicy cocktails as well. The cocktail bar serves 6 different mocktails at £7.50 each, the highlight of which is the Vietnamese Lemonade made with fresh ginger, passion fruit and lemon juice.

Barrio East in Shoreditch
This new addition to the Barrio family and the Shoreditch cocktail bar scene is as colourful and crazy as its siblings, and is probably the most fun cocktail bar on this list. The £4 mocktail options are limited to only 4 (sobriety goes against everything Barrio stands for, really). The best choice is the Agua Fresca; a South American staple filled with fresh fruit and citrus, available in melon or pineapple.

Salvador and Amanda in Bloomsbury
This new tapas and cocktail bar near Holborn has some £4.50 mocktails on the drinks menu which, at present, include the mojito-style ZEO Rocket: pepper and rocket leaves muddled with agave syrup, lime and lemon juice and topped with ZEO, a 0% ABV drink based on a blend of botanicals that tastes like ginger beer mixed with essence of Tippex; which oddly, I rather enjoy.

Long Bar at Sanderson in Fitzrovia
With the fashion industry firmly planted in Fitzrovia, this bar will suit sartorially inclined ladies, or chaps who are looking for such darlings. The cocktail menu includes an ‘On The Wagon’ section, which contains 4 succinct options, each at £7, including the Virgin coriander and rhubarb mojito with apple juice and cranberry juice.

SO.UK in Clapham
No decent bar guide can really omit south London’s most prolific area for bars and pubs, and this freshly refurbished pan-Asian bar/club has a cocktail menu that will cater to those looking for a long night out (without alcohol). The cocktail menu boasts 9 varieties, each priced at £5, and surely the most apposite cocktail being the Lost in Clapham, made with passion fruit, pineapple, apple, fresh raspberries and a dash of lemon.

Watatsumi in Trafalgar Square
This is undoubtedly the healthiest night out in London for anyone who is off the sauce at the moment because this Japanese restaurant in the heart of the West End serves inspiring Japanese sushi and sashimi as well as a small selection of virgin cocktails at £5 each, including the Triple Passion (for those with romance in mind) which uses freshly muddled lemongrass fused with passion fruit, vanilla and lychee.

Friday, 11 January 2013

London's Most Booked Restaurants Of 2012: A Pictorial

According to our stats, these were the top 10 most popular restaurants, in terms of bookings, in London in 2012. It's easy to see why.

(1) The Brasserie at The Tower

(2) Babylon at the Roof Gardens
(3) 1901
(4) Cafe Des Amis
(5) The Brickhouse
(6) Boyd’s Brasserie
(7) The Terrace Grill and Bar at Le Méridien
(8) Blueprint Cafe
(9) Le Pont de la Tour
(10) Kettner’s

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Sober In London: Detox & Unlimited Booze Is A Medieval Mix

By Christian Rose-Day.

Giving up alcohol for January to allow the body to move passed the evils of Christmas and New Year’s Eve is hard enough for any frequent London drinker.

I can up that ante. I work for Fluid London and we are commonly referred to, in the industry, as ‘a ripe old bunch of lushes’. We drink at, eat at, review, and tweet about London’s best bars, pubs and restaurants because that’s what we’re expected to do. To us, abstaining from booze for a month is like losing a vital organ.

Regrettably, I’ve made the rash decision to up the ante even further. Since downing that final glass of celebratory port at roughly 5.30am on New Year’s Day, I have so far remained steadfast in my resolve to tackle the unimaginable: stay dry until after the 2013 London marathon in April; which is still 14 weeks, 2 days, and 11 hours away!

I can report that, thanks to a prescient special offer on Beck’s Blue alcohol-free lager at my local Sainsbury’s, Week 1 has proved reasonably manageable. Well, it was until I scheduled my first restaurant review of 2013, at The Medieval Banquet in St Katharine Docks (a suitable excursion for the Russian guests I was entertaining recently), where included in the price of the £49.95 ticket was UNLIMITED ALE AND/OR WINE! And when they say UNLIMITED, they mean UNLIMITED.

Great jugs of the stuff was frequently brought to our table by our buxom waitress for the evening, and in the unlikely event of requiring a refill, we were encouraged to bang on the tables with our thirst-angered fists hailing, “WENCH! Fetch me more ale!”

Not an ideal setting for a recent dryathlete such as myself.

And so it was that a flagon of the sweetest apple juice ever to grace the shores of Great Britain was placed in front of me and I dutifully gulped it down like a good little T-totaller.

Thankfully, the various contortionists, jugglers, dancers, prancers and singers providing the entertainment for the evening distracted me just long enough so that I could escape, full of belly, but only through the charms of food (and apple juice), not booze.

This is going to be a long, onerous winter.....

Monday, 7 January 2013

The great home cooking revival

Eating out at a fine restaurant will always be one of life’s great pleasures, but for many people there are distinct advantages to rustling up a great meal at home. These include:

Saving money
Saving money is perhaps the most obvious benefit to cooking for yourself. The economic downturn of the last few years has fuelled a real resurgence in home cooking as squeezed consumers look for ways to save money without compromising on enjoyment and nutrition. This has boosted sales of kitchenware and cookery books and has seen a mini boom in the number of cookery classes available.

Supermarket chains have been quick to support the home cooking trend by providing thrifty shoppers with partially prepared ingredients that can be as quickly and easily assembled into a meal. Unusual ingredients and exotic herbs, spices and seasonings, such as those provided by the Schwartz range, are now far more readily available in major supermarkets than they were even a decade ago.

Family benefits
Spending more time with your family is another clear benefit to cooking at home. Sharing good food has always been a way of cementing bonds between family members, and sitting down together for meals on a regular basis may signal a return to more traditional family values. Preparing meals at home also provides parents with a good opportunity to teach their children how to cook, a skill that will stand them in good stead throughout life. If your children are fussy eaters, getting them involved in the preparation of food will make meals more fun and less of a battleground.

Health benefits
Good health is another sound reason to shun convenience food in favour of home-cooked meals. Wholesome, fresh ingredients are generally more nutritious than processed ones and if you cook your meals yourself you can control exactly how much fat, salt and sugar goes into them. You are also less likely to be tempted to buy unhealthy treats if you are eating satisfying home cooked meals.

Home cooking as a hobby
Many people pursue cooking as a serious hobby. It’s messy, it’s creative and the results can always be shared with an appreciative audience. Learning the cooking styles of different world cuisines is a great way of boosting your culinary expertise.

Traditional Chinese cuisine is a firm favourite among home cooks. Different styles of Chinese Recipes originate from the different regions of China and are influenced by factors such as climate and geography. Cantonese cuisine is probably the best known tradition outside of China. Soy sauce, spring onions and rice wine are very characteristic of this style of cooking. If you’re hosting a Chinese-themed dinner party, you can add chopsticks and bamboo mats for an authentic feel.

Greek cuisine is another popular tradition with a long history and many different styles to offer. Greek Recipes tend to make wide use of olive oil, aubergine, courgettes, okra, feta cheese and dried oregano. A little plate smashing can add a fun element to a Greek-themed dinner party.