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A merry maritime in Greenwich

A merry maritime in Greenwich

By on Jul 1, 2014 in Commentary, Drink, English, Food, London, Real ale, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel | 0 comments

Oh England. England, England, England, with your soggy summers and bitterly disappointing football scores, we do still love you. And what better way to remind ourselves of just how much we love you than to pay a visit to a royal borough to experience your heritage and parks in all their rich green lush splendidness, to seek out some hidden gem of gastronomic delight in a tavern where we might replenish our spirits by feasting on seasonal fare, slaking our thirsts with an extensive wine list and chugging down a selection of hand-pumped ales? No better way. For some inspiration on visiting Greenwich for a day out, one might consider taking the ferry boat from Westminster pier so as to soak in the sights along the way. It’s a great way to see parts of London you might not usually get to witness, and there is also a guide on board to talk you through some of the history and points of interest. Once at the historic naval heart of Britain that is Greenwich, there is a raft of things to see and do. You can visit the National Maritime museum and learn about England’s rich maritime past, or the Royal Observatory and planetarium to learn about star charting, and pop off on a voyage through the universe. I’m rather intrigued by the show “Back to the moon for good” which chronicles the efforts of teams to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, for which they must land a robotic spacecraft on the Moon, navigate 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send video, images and data back to Earth. “This global competition is designed to spark imagination and inspire a renewed commitment to space exploration, not by governments or countries – but by the citizens of the world.” Of course there is the legendary Cutty Sark, a Grade 1 listed dry docked clipper vessel with a fascinating history. As wikipedia tells us: “Willis considered that the bow shape of Tweed was responsible for its notable performance, and this form seems to have been adopted for Cutty Sark. Linton, however, felt that the stern was too barrel-shaped and so gave Cutty Sark a squarer stern with less tumblehome. The broader stern increased the buoyancy of the rear of the ship, making it...

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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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In the lapland of luxury

In the lapland of luxury

By on Feb 11, 2014 in Adventure, Drink, Food, Hotels, Lapland, Luxury, Real ale, Reviews, Travel | 0 comments

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch” or so they say. “They” however weren’t bloggers. I jest of course. Writers, journos, bloggers, or anybody with the ability to generate publicity are often schmoozed in exchange for exposure (steady on) and there is nothing so criminal about that in itself. However it can prove tricky when you’re asked to experience and review something that falls well below what you might consider a reasonable standard. For my part I tend to pick a destination or press trip very carefully, vetting it for quality before attending, and quite simply if I don’t enjoy the experience I will tell my host and give them the opportunity to correct it or avoid publication. Harsh, but fair. However, occasionally you do strike gold, and end up having a fantastic experience, such as was the case in the run up to Christmas last year, when I headed along to the Ice Bar in London for a bash dedicated to all that is Northern Sweden’s Lapland, a destination I have long yearned to visit since reading AA Gill’s descriptions of riding across a starlit snowy tundra, downwind from a nitrate rich fug of husky guff, sleeping on blocks of ice wearing nothing but a reindeer pelt. Or was it a wolf skin? Lapland is a wild and expansive destination in the far North of Sweden, known for a range of profoundly unique points of attraction, both natural and man made. Aside from the fact there is obvious beauty in the sub-zero crystallisation of swathes of wide open countryside, draped in a thick blanket of snow, there is also the breathtaking spectacle of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights; a natural phenomenon that occurs when magnetism created by solar flares, bounces off the earth’s outer atmosphere resulting in a celestial light show of swathes of luminescent refraction. Some clever people decided this would be an ideal spot to install a winter break destination so they built the Ice Hotel and yes, it is a hotel made entirely of ice. I’ve never been there, but a trip to The Ice Bar in London was the next best thing. First off we were taught how to sculpt ice, which was...

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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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Alex’s adventures in Londonland

Alex’s adventures in Londonland

By on Dec 2, 2013 in Adventure, Food, Hotels, London, Real ale, Travel | 0 comments

The first hotel we checked in to was Selsdon Park hotel and golf club, a sprawling pile of old stone on the edges of Surrey and London, so a short commute from London Gatwick which of course is handy,  especially after a long and arduous flight. Alexandra fell for it on account of the historical aspect and the rolling grounds. The very fact of a visitor choosing a hotel based on these facts alone,  which in fairness I would not have considered, made me realise that many visitors to London are interested in the historic aspects, many of which are easy to take for granted when you live here. Although it looks grand from the outside, on closer inspection, beyond the charm of the building’s original fabric and convenient location, there wasn’t too much else going for the place. Take for example the fact that the view of nature from our room was ruined by the broad splat of a car park that spreads across the entire forecourt. Throw in a miniscule lift door that slams shut in your face as you’re trying to drag your suitcase out of it, the wobbly creaking floorboards covered in tired carpet. Cosy? Sure. Quaint? Not so sure. What can be said in their defence is that the prices are accurately reflective of the overall experience. In the evening we bypassed the bar which appeared to be an out-take from an episode of George and Mildred, and headed to Sir Julian Huxley’s, a right regal JD Wetherspoons pub. Dear overseas readers: JD Wetherspoons are a chain of pubs focussing more on economy than quality of decor. In all fairness, their business model is roaringly successful and the simple fact that they sell good quality ales at reasonable prices means they have a regular flow of trade. The Huxley is a great example of why and how Wetherspoons pubs work and I feel it is worth highlighting the group to budget conscious visitors, as they provide real British ales and pub meals in a pretty consistent fashion at low cost. Dont expect culinary flair or architectural or decorative magnificence; do however use them as a stable chain to rely on if you need somewhere to rest and refuel without breaking...

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Game boy

Game boy

By on Oct 27, 2013 in Drink, Food, Interior design, Real ale, Restaurants, Travel | 0 comments

It’s that time of the year again when squash and kale and cob nuts are in season, leaves are turning russet brown, our wardrobes start featuring wool and tweed, and there is a bite in the air. Autumn is also synonymous with the game hunting and cooking season here in England, so for these reasons it’s a time of the year I particularly relish. If you’re a vegetarian it’s probably best to nip off for a nut cutlet at this point, because I am about to describe a feast for two that consisted mostly of our furry and feathered friends. The Jugged Hare is an interesting proposition, given that it’s half pub, half restaurant, and is a very traditional venue in some respects, yet quite progressive in others. Situated in the City of London in what was once a Whitbread brewery and now adjoins a four star Montcalm hotel, The Jugged Hare has a certain feeling of grandeur that comes partly from the location and clientele, and also from the decor of coach-house pub style, with quirky twists and embellishments, including numerous stuffed and mounted animals of the species you are likely to be eating once you’ve supped a couple of fine ales. When I arrived on a Wednesday evening, the bar was busy, but not so as anyone was waiting longer than a minute or two. The staff all dressed in their Prince of Wales check tweed frock coats with red velvet buttons looked rather dapper. I kicked off with an otter, served cold. Thinly sliced otter …I jest. A pint of Amber Otter ale, served to perfection. My date had the convenient audacity to arrive late so I moved swiftly and gladly on to an Adnam’s Spindrift. Brilliant beers at reasonable prices given the location, and I only regret she didn’t arrive later so I could have sampled the Jugged Hare Pale Ale. City slickers do have a tendency to jostle you quite a bit at the bar, but then again what’s a jostle between traders? Probably something that costs more than most of us earn in a year, but then again that’s not saying much. Along came her nibs and we passed on through to the...

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