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King of King’s (Road) and Cadogan.

King of King’s (Road) and Cadogan.

By on May 29, 2014 in Cocktails, Drink, Food, Interior design, London, Real ale, Restaurants | 0 comments

In which Philip King, 1st King of Streatham is reunited with an old Earl. Many many moons ago, far far back in the distant past in the year of our Lord 1992, I ventured up to The King’s Road, Chelsea, with a crumpled tenner in my student duffle jacket pocket and high hopes of achieving a pleasant level of inebriation, perchance to impress one of the many damsels I had spotted earlier in the day as they shopped for designer threads amongst the many boutiques in this highly fashionable district. My partner in crime was a dashing fellow inebriate, and together we headed straight for a tavern by the name of The Cadogan Arms, as it had a right regal ring to it, what with having been a tavern since 1869 and named after the first Earl of Cadogan. Faded, jaded décor featured crimson flock wallpaper, wonky wall mounted lampshades with velveteen trim and plump little tassles, scrappy printed portraits of huntsmen and women on horseback gallivanting over hills and dales. It was very much of its time, in that the renaissance of pubs bars and restaurants had yet to take hold of London. To experience walking to the bar was akin to experiencing being a fly glued to fly paper as one’s feet stuck to the floor; meanwhile everything had a habit of creaking as though on the film set of a Hammer horror movie, but we didn’t care because the booze was cheap and the bands and the beat-up juke box made a vaguely pleasing racket as I recall.  Suffice it to say, this has all changed dramatically now, since the site was taken over and renovated some time ago by the same brains behind The Jugged Hare, a praiseworthy establishment over Barbican way. Whopping windows now provide a vista onto the ever busy King’s Road. Inside, the scheme evokes a sort of highland refectory, with woodiness abounding, a curious assortment of huntsman’s spoils adorning the walls and overall there is a feeling of everything being pared back. It’s unfussy, yet with enough touches to make it quaint and quirky. I took a pint of Jugged Hare IPA, brewed especially for the group by some indie craft...

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Diciannove? Yes, she did a Nove.

Diciannove? Yes, she did a Nove.

By on Jan 2, 2014 in Adventure, Cocktails, Italian, London, Real ale, Restaurants, Travel | 0 comments

After browsing through the many artefacts at the Victoria & Albert museum, including the legendary Ardabil carpet and Dale Chihuly’s mind-bendingly intricate glass sculptures, we returned to Blackfriars and had a quick tipple in the Black Friar, an art nouveau pub, notable for it’s ornate sculpted and carved friezes, and which rather conveniently has a great range of very well kept cask ales. Then we crossed back to Crowne Plaza to pay a return visit to the beautiful Voltaire bar for a pre-dinner cocktail. This particular invention is a quirky little number created in partnership with Temple Spa; it’s a gin based drink containing grapefruit juice, thyme, rosemary sugar and lemon, and was a perfect aperitif, even including a tube of soothing foot balm which was much needed after all the walking. As tempted as I was to kick off my boots there and then in the bar and start applying the lotion, I resisted the urge, instead heading to the recently renovated and re-launched Diciannove. From the very moment we arrived, service was warm, attentive and friendly, and I noticed this to be the case not only with us, but with every table that was being attended to. It struck me the effectiveness of good service really can’t be under-estimated as it adds to the overall atmosphere, in part because nobody feels ignored or frustrated. I remember my days working as a waiter and event organiser fondly, as it would often be the case that you could turn around a person’s bad mood from the moment they walk in, lending a kind and sympathetic ear, finding out and fetching exactly what they require in a timely fashion and by simply smiling in spite of their frustration at the cruel world responsible for delivering them to you in this state of angst. This chrysalis of perfection becomes their safe haven, and you are their protector for a brief while. As we were staying in the hotel that night we figured on staying at Diciannove for the duration, so rather than seeking to wolf a meal down in two courses, we opted to share a range of smaller dishes. After a round of delicious freshly baked breads and infused oils came thinly rolled classic Neapolitan...

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From Russia with lux.

From Russia with lux.

By on Nov 11, 2013 in Cocktails, Drink, Food, Interior design, London, Luxury, Reviews | 0 comments

Meditation. Is it a pastime, an art, or a highly elevated form of spiritual release?  No longer the sole preserve of monks, yogis, Swamis and Saddhus, this habit or ritual is now practiced by a glut of suburban pseudo-hippies across nations. And why not? We are all of us licensed to culture-surf freely across borders, letting our minds take us to where they might never have roamed before the advent of telescopes, satellites, computers and the beloved televisual goggle-box gave fuel to the fire of our imagination. As the human exploration of space and the universe extends ever further, so too does each individual’s faculty of comprehension. We can all go vegan, close our eyes in Lotus position and pop off on an astral trip around the universe. I tried it myself (not veganism!) and can safely report that there is no threat from X Factor in deep space, which is good to know. Still, back to Earth for now. Where better to engage in such self-elevation than the great cultural hubristic hubbub that is London? And the destination of choice for this particular astral voyage? Why it’s none other than Arkady Novikov’s emporium of earthly delights, deep in the heart of Mayfair. To quote Dr Frasier Crane: “that sounded better in the shower this morning.” I had heard about Novikov through various acquaintances and was intrigued to sample the opulent bohemic kitsch cool for which it is famed, but I somehow view myself as being almost sub-human even in comparison to the staff in such establishments. However on this occasion I was a guest, invited along with my blogger hat on to sample their new cicchetti menu. So it’s cocktail oclock and you’re going to throw Italian aperitivos in to the bargain, and the staff are guaranteed not to sneer at my threads? Beam me up, or down in fact as this is a basement bar after all. Emporium may not actually suffice to describe what Novikov has brought to Mayfair as in fact this is more of a palace. It’s vast in scale, with luxury embellishments throughout and a wide open expansive feeling that strikes you the moment you enter. Rather than exploring the upstairs space which...

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Best of the best food blogs

Best of the best food blogs

By on Oct 12, 2013 in Cocktails, Drink, Food, Photography, Recipes, Reviews | 0 comments

As a blogger I am often asked to specify my favourite food blogs. Presumably people are curious to know where I glean inspiration from. The truth is that I tend to derive inspiration from external influences such as fantastic locations and venues, exceptional chef’s skills or particularly good produce. However it has to be said there are some excellent and inspirational blogs out there and of course I do read them, its simply that I try not to be too derivative or else it would seem unoriginal and perhaps less inspiring. Today I am publishing a selection of what I consider to be the best food blogs out there, or at least those that I turn to when in need of some inspiration, be it visual or culinary. To some it may seem madness to be promoting those who I am effectively in competition with, but of course that’s the beauty of food blogging; it’s not a highly competitive game, although of course there is an element of friendly competition in as much as we all want to be the best we can be. However, it’s a shared space that fosters a sense of community, which is something I’m proud to be a part of. I hope you enjoy their work as much as I do. Katie hails from Sydney, Australia and her blog is a visual marvel; perhaps unsurprisingly as she is a photographer by trade. Her recipes are unfussy and delicious, and she is also a great traveller and restaurant reviewer. An all-rounder and absolute natural at her game. What are the best features of the Californian Putney Farmer’s blog? It’s hard to know where to even begin. You could start with the fact they grow most of what they blog about. In their own words “We have a garden, orchard, berry patch and bees. We grow about 50 fruits, veggies and herbs every year.” They seem to blog pretty much every day, so the blog is packed with literally hundreds of fantastic recipes. Add in the fact they feature outstanding cocktail recipes and yes, that’s pretty much a recipe for success. Sam is a prodigious home chef who cheats by also running a cafe. Cheeky chap. It’s...

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Sophistication St James’s

Sophistication St James’s

By on Sep 25, 2013 in Cocktails, Food, Interior design, London, Luxury, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel | 0 comments

The past few months have been really interesting in terms of culinary cultural progression here in the UK. We’ve witnessed an emergence of food trends that seem to pop up everywhere you look. You literally can’t chuck an empty food wrapper away without hitting a food blogger or some kind of clued-up slick Rick in a bow tie and braces. For many, fine dining has been shunted on to the back burner in favour of car parking lots, rooftops, greasy-Joe burger joints and the like. To an extent I’ve observed from the eaves, as some sort of highfalutin detached ironic observer, feigning pity for the poor souls who discuss the comparative merits of one sloppy pattie-stacked sandwich over another. Then as the surge in popularity of these culinary clip-joints reached what seemed like an apex I began to dip my toe in. It was a fairly chilly dip and left me none the wiser from the point of view of actual gourmet experience. At the risk of seeming dog-like, simply sniffing at the subject before cocking a leg on it, I began to think about what my position and that of the Culinary World Tour might be in all of this. Of course any of us who have travelled much will be familiar with various styles of street food, but who would have thought even five years ago that people would soon be making a living or even a sizeable hobby out of reviewing it? One thing that is great about pop-ups is the ability to mingle and chat over food, although that’s not always exactly what you want is it? Just as you’re about to bite into a much needed sausage, some fatuous fruitcake bowls up to you: “Phil? Phil Connors?? It’s me Ned. Ned Ryerson. I did the whistling belly button trick at the high school talent show. Is that a Jumping Jefferson dog you got there? You gotta try the one with cucumber chipotle mayo it’s to die for.” Cut to a shot of Phil dropping said dog in a bin bag, gazing wistfully through the rabble of tin pan alley up to the hoity toities on civilization street as the brass bell dings merrily above a restaurant door. The point is that at times all you need is a decent...

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French enlightemup

French enlightemup

By on May 1, 2013 in Adventure, Cocktails, Drink, Food, London, Luxury, Poetic musings, Reviews, Travel | 0 comments

Friars all blackened by soot of Cubano Downstairs venture to a Francophile’s pit Shepherds and butchers alike cut it here Snip here, snip there and the draw begins. Bull’s blood by the tankard, bloody cell in a cave. What merry madness made in subterranean solipsism could eschew such platitudes or truisms? “The composition of a tragedy requires testicles.” And after all, what is left beyond the indignity of indulgence? Venture Eastwards to the great grey blocks Stern buttresses flank the ebbs and flows Descend gleefully awnings, stretched boulevard side Therein find solace. Voltaire is a long elegant basement bar situated in Blackfriars, London. It features an extensive and highly imaginative cocktail list and boasts a humidor brimming with fine cigars. Along the back wall are a number of caverns that can be reserved for groups of up to 8. A great way to spend your evening or indeed afternoon. Service is impeccable and the location has the added benefit of being right beside the Thames and in amongst some of London’s finest architecture. Definitely worth a visit and an outright winner for parties of 8 or more. Book...

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