Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Weekend Party Pop-Up: Where to Find Street Food, Cocktails and Live Music in Shoreditch

Fluid London’s Sophie Marie Atkinskon discovers that East London car parks can actually be quite nice places for chilling when it’s chilly. 
Hanging out in car parks has officially become cool. This winter’s hottest hangout is Night Tales, the pop-up cocktail, music and food party in Shoreditch, East London.  
 After a summer stint, the crew have returned to warm our cockles, and this time they're taking over a vast (10,000 sq/ft) car park every Friday and Saturday for a seven-week run. The space has been transformed into a winter haven, featuring wild gardens, wood fires, private chalets, three bars and a huge stretch canopy to protect you from the elements.
There’s also enticing and inventive cocktails to be supped – take your pick from espresso martinis, whiskey cocktails and mulled drinks – and the finest street food to be sampled.
During the seven-week run, guest teams include Patty and Bun, purveyors of Caribbean fare Rum Kitchen, Yum Bun, Popdogs, Monty and Bob’s – famed for their grilled cheese – and Randy’s, who serve up the very best in wings (make sure you try the buffalo shrimp).  
And food isn’t the only thing on the menu: music is provided by a top team of house, disco, funk and techno selectors (including Bill Brewster, Frank Broughton and the Black Butter Records crew) so you can dance off all those calories.  

From 6pm – midnight every Friday and Saturday in November, and then every Thursday, Friday and Saturday until 20 December. Entry costs £4. 288-299 Old Street, EC1V 9DP

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Chelsea Christmas Pub Crawl

With winter already here, we turn our gaze to the ever-so British delights of the traditional pub - crackling log fires, mulled wine, twinkling fairy lights, port and cheese. And where better to do so than by indulging in a pub crawl across Chelsea - where Fluid London's Zamzama Tarantino was lucky enough to be invited by Geronimo Inns to enjoy a drink or six.

We started our evening in the festively decked Builders Arms. A classic Chelsea local, elegantly styled but traditional and cosy - it would be a great place to while away a Sunday with a group of friends. 
And how else to start a Chelsea pub crawl than a glass or two of Moet and Chandon - a touch of the button will ensure your glass remains topped up all night. 

Next stop, The Phoenix pub on Smith Street. With a trendier vibe and quirky touch, this place has more of a party atmosphere.
To get us into the zone, we got to sample a variety of cocktails made with gin from lux London brand Sipsmith. The Christmas special - a gin cocktail with spiced hot apple juice - is a really scrumptious, fruity alternative to mulled wine. 
In true Chelsea style ours was accompanied by a plate of salty, cool Oysters. Perfect.

Third pub of the evening was The Surprise on Christchurch Terrace. Of all the pubs on our Chelsea pub crawl, this was the most understated. Despite the trademark Geronimo Inn quirks (as with all the other pubs we visited), this pub had a more sophisticated, mature feel and was packed with locals. Here we got to sample haggis canapes and beer from Sharps brewers. Also worth mentioning is the alcoholic ginger beer from London-based company Hawkes we tasted - sweet, zingy and beautifully boozy. 
Our final stop was a hop over the river to ‘Chelsea South’ - also known as Battersea. Right next to Battersea Park, The Prince Albert has a quirky interior in the vein of the Phoenix but being a lot bigger it felt less intimate and more like a chain. 
The clientele seemed to be young professionals who lived or worked in the area and as such it seemed like it could get lively at the weekends and on a Thursday night was respectably busy. Upstairs at The Prince Albert is for private hire and deserves a mention - it had a bit more personality than downstairs and the embossed dog wallpaper is awesome. 
We ended our night fittingly - sampling port and specialist cheeses from Plumpton College, an artisanal supplier based in East Sussex. 
Of the four pubs we’d say The Prince Albert was the least posh. Even so, it made an appearance on Made in Chelsea a couple of weeks ago - make of that what you will. Whether MIC is your cup of tea or you’re too posh for pop culture - Chelsea has a drinking establishment to suit this festive season, so grab your pashminas and head on out for a glass of champers and an oyster or two!

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Art of The Aperitif at The Langham

By Anastasia Hancock

The Palm Court at The Langham claims to have been the birthplace of the quintessentially British Afternoon Tea. However, the award-winning bar has recently taken on a decidedly more continental twist with the launch of ‘The Art of the Aperitif’. The new pop-up bar will celebrate the iconic Martini brand with a selection of cocktails and specially paired dishes.

The bar will also host an exhibition of artwork from the Italian favourite, so you can sip classic aperitivi while taking in the vintage Martini posters ranging from the 1890s right up to the 1980s whilst feeling like an extra from La Dolce Vita.
Noël Coward once said that ‘a perfect martini should be made by filling a glass with gin, then waving it in the general direction of Italy’. A little more thought goes into it at the Palm Court, so whether you like your perfect cocktail shaken or stirred, wet or dry, dirty or perfect, there are seven new recipes to try. Highlights include Martini Bianco mixed with pine, raspberry and Crodino, and Martini Rosato mixed with rum, guava and Martini bitter.  
No aperitif is complete without a little something to nibble on, and the light menu has been designed to go with the vermouth-based cocktails. Grilled scallops with pickled apple and chorizo, wild mushroom risotto bites with truffle mayonnaise and beef carpaccio with baby artichoke do a good job of soaking up all that Martini. The pop up is only open until the 29th November, so if you fancy a bit of Italian culture after a grey day in London, get down to the Langham, pronto

Saturday, 4 October 2014

City Break from London: a Weekend in Edinburgh, Scotland

Fluid London's editor Christian Rose-Day takes a trip up to the Scottish capital and discovers some hidden gems.

What's wrong with London?

In a word: nothing. We can all find hundreds of ways to explore and experience London on the weekend, especially with so many bars and restaurants. But sometimes it's nice to get away for the weekend, to take a city break, to see how other places do what we do all the time.

And besides, Fluid London's sister website, Fluid Edinburgh, needed some hotel restaurants visiting, so what a perfect excuse to visit the Scottish capital.
Edinburgh Castle is awesome almost from any angle. This view from the west looked particularly impressive with the clear blue sky as the backdrop.
Edinburgh Castle bisected by the Church of St Cuthbert also makes for a dramatic backdrop. And this is where our weekend city break in Edinburgh began, just outside the boutique Rutland Hotel, where we stayed for our first night.

A boutique hotel apartment in Edinburgh

We were booked in at one of the Rutland Hotel's brand new luxury apartments, just a few doors down from the main hotel and Princes Street Gardens.
These apartments sit on several levels of a beautiful building that has retained its glorious staircase. 
On the top floor, just outside the apartment, a colourful retreat for quiet readers, perhaps.
The apartment we stayed in was modern and masculine, with hints of Scottish flavour dashed about the place. Note the tartan seating and antler light fittings.
A lovely little coffee/reading table and window seat in the lounge area.
Comfy seating directly facing the wall-mounted TV.
A full loaded kitchen with all necessary appliances, in case we found nothing to do in Edinburgh (unlikely, but still nice to know it was there).
The brighter of the two bedrooms in our apartment suite at The Rutland Hotel.
The second bedroom came with a leather covered make-up desk and mirror as well. And those rugs were super cosy.
The bathroom was fitted with a jacuzzi in the bath and mirror that was unaffected by steam. Mod cons!
Love the fancy lavender scented bathroom products.
The Rutland Hotel's restaurant is called Kyloe (read my full review). The menu is heavily based on steak.
In case you're not sure which steak you'd like to try, this handy guide should help you make a decision.

Explore Edinburgh's dramatic city landscape

Princes Street Gardens is a beautiful place to start your aimless meanderings around Edinburgh city centre. 
The Balmoral Hotel next to Waverley train station in Central Edinburgh also looks like a grand place to stay.
Go on, take one of the hidden corridors that pop up along the Royal Mile in Central Edinburgh. You never know where it may lead you.
St Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh is well worth a visit. Beautiful stained glass windows, and marvellous decorative features. The church organ is amazing.
Scott's Monument in Princes Street Gardens; ascend only if you have a head for heights.

One of the best cafes in Edinburgh

Here I am sat in the window of Lovecrumbs cafe near the bottom of Grassmarket in Edinburgh's Old Town. And yes, you can sit in the window and drink your coffee. Under no circumstances are you allowed to leave the cafe without sampling one, if not more, of their outstanding cakes.

Stay the night in an Edinburgh castle

This is the driveway to Melville Castle, an 18th century mansion that was turned into a hotel in the 1990s. As the venue is on the outskirts of Edinburgh, you may have to have a car to get here. Alternatively, do as we did and catch a bus from Central Edinburgh to the top of the driveway, but only during daylight. Then you can enjoy the mile-long stroll to the castle through lush green woods.

The impressive entrance to the castle leads into a classic Scottish lobby area, replete with dead animal heads and weaponry on the wall.
Although the setting is amazing, the bedrooms themselves are severely dated. As mentioned, this place became a hotel in the 90s and it looks like it hasn't been refurbished at all since then. Still, the sleep was quiet and dark.
Inspecting the view out of the bedroom window.
Make sure you tale a walk around the grounds if you come here for a visit. It is quite something.
And before dinner, stop off for a gin and tonic in the bar. Just make sure you arrive early enough to snaffle the window seats overlooking the fountain in the garden.
A familiar face on the stairs: Rabbie Burns, the famous Scottish poet.
The restaurant, The Brasserie at Melville Castle, is, for unknown reason, hidden down in the dark basement. The experience down there is not a cosy one, as you can read from my full review. Too many hard surfaces, old furnishings, and bad music for my liking.
That said, the mains are delicious and hearty, such as this ballotine of guinea fowl with Puy lentils, black pudding and apple, fondant potato, and fine green beans. This goes perfectly with a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet.
Dessert was also worth the lengthy wait: sticky date and banana loaf, Baileys butterscotch sauce, and iced coconut parfait.
Breakfast in the ballroom next morning; again, make sure you nab a window seat. Really, the restaurant should move up here.

The Scotch Whisky Experience

Before leaving Edinburgh we spent the last few hours learning about Scotland's great love affair with a certain refreshment at The Scotch Whisky Experience, right next to Edinburgh Castle.
The barrel ride through the history and mechanics of whisky production made for an eventful introduction into the world of Scotch.
And the collection of whiskies they have on site! My word!
Truly eye watering.
At one point on the tour there's a brief lecture about where whisky is produced in Scotland - mainly Lowlands, Highlands, Islay and Speyside - and to help everyone understand the different flavours that each of these types of single malt whisky possess, a handy scratch and sniff card is handed out just before the tasting, giving all the opportunity to offer their interpretations of smell.
Before boarding the 4-hour train back to London, we stopped off at Amber restaurant and whisky bar at The Scotch Whisky Experience and stuffed ourselves silly with gorgeous Scottish meats, cheeses, breads and vegetables.
If you're planning a trip up to Edinburgh, check out the Top 10 guides on Fluid Edinburgh for inspiration.