Wednesday, 24 August 2011

POW aka Prince of Wales, Clapham 15/20*

Location: Old Town, Clapham

Website: unlikely!

Visit: Thursday evening, Saturday Afternoon, anytime!

To Note? GREAT date pub

Ambiance 5/5
Design 5/5
Drinks 2/5
Staff 3/5
Extra LBS star: *

You can already tell from the scores where I am going with this one. You do not come here to ask for a Mojito let alone a glass of Riesling - the closest you will get to fresh fruit here is a slice of lemon in your G&T. You do come here and admire the range of "homemade" - shudder to think where - ciders from quirky named bags-in-boxes in the fridge. The one with the skull and cross bones looked particularly fun and was actually one of the best. We tried all of them, that is why it gets my special star...

This is a local pub and to be completely honest you would not go out of your way to find it. Saying that if you are in the area and thirsty there is always a very friendly atmosphere here. In fact you are unlikely to leave without a conversation with your neighbouring table. As for the staff, they will happily pour you a little bit of something be it beer, perry or cider to try first but they are there to serve and not necessarily with a smile. It is not unfriendly per say, just London!

So what do I keep coming back for? The ceiling!

This place looks like a car on its way to a 1960's inspired car boot sale exploded inside. There is STUFF everywhere - on the walls, the ceiling, the tables, the bar. One day I definitely plan on stealing their lamp. There is so much to talk about here that everyone should have their first date here; and the cider doesn't hurt the conversation flow either.

It is the simply the kind of bar you want around the corner, so pop in and say hello. I will no doubt be perched on a stool admiring the tuba, or the wooden sleigh, or the typewriter...

Monday, 22 August 2011

Callooh Callay, Hoxton 19/20*

Location: 65 Rivington Street, Hoxton/Shoreditch

Visit: Friday 8pm

To Note? Book a table in the Jub Jub bar and consider how good life would be if granted membership

Ambiance 5/5
Design 4/5
Drinks 5/5
Staff 5/5

Extra LBS star: *

After a warm greeted at the main bar I was handed over to the more than capable Jub Jub host Dan. It does not take long for the bar name to become apparent as – Alice-in-Wonderland style - I was whisked through a cupboard door and up some curtained stairs where a key was produced allowing entry to this attic bar.

This is not Callooh Callay. This…is the Jub Jub Club.

This free-but-you-need-to-be-a-member club is all about how much you enjoy cocktails. Every Thursday to Saturday there is a mixologist in residence often from further flung areas than when we visited – bar manager Andrea Montague was on call with her “breakfast menu”. She may be local but we sampled some, quite frankly, mind blowing drinks.

I must draw attention to that fact that we were presented – and topped up – with water as we perched at the bar. It’s a small gesture but as with Bramble a good one. From the menu online I was set on starting with Something For The Kids; a heady mix of whisky, orange juice and nutella. The flavours were amazing, layered one after the other to constantly surprise. My companion – a braver woman than me – opted for Alexander Kellogg’s. This was surprisingly, well, breakfast like, and all the more dangerous for it.

We progressed to a Ristretto and Soy Milk Latte’ini’ which was another perfect example of layers of delicious flavours and a hundred miles from the average Espresso Martini. My friend outdid me again opting for Bacon and Eggs which arrived with a cinnamon dusted pig in a blanket. Not only was this combination of sweet and savoury delicious, but the deep yellow glutinous drink it sat upon was so good I was verging on order envy. After this it was off-piste from the menu and anything that came our way!

To be somewhere on a Friday night where the mixologist has time to chat about your drinks, different flavour combinations, your favourite animal etc…is a delight. Leaving this haven to visit the toilets however caused a minor problem getting back in without a key. This is a small point but probably related to the fact we outstayed our alloted time slot when the Club really is “member only”. Music was good, people were all very friendly and obviously looking for beverage excellence, even the tarragon and parmesan popcorn got sticky thumbs up.

My LBS star is for a very similar reason to Scaredy Cat – yes the bar is secret but there are no pretentions here to be anything other than at the top of the cocktail game and if that means issuing members key then so be it.

I say this with my membership request pending so caveat this will be continued…

Friday, 19 August 2011

The Drift, Bishopsgate/City 13/20

Location: Heron Tower 110 Bishopsgate

Visit: Friday after work

To Note? BOOK!

Ambiance 3/5
Design 4/5
Drinks 2/5
Staff 4/5

Extra LBS star: You have to be kidding?!

What can you say about another Drake and Morgan cool NY-style bar which are popping up all over London wherever they can take money from tired office workers? Well, its another Drake and Morgan cool NY-style bar.

We booked a table for 6.15 on a Friday night. This, my friends, is a good idea. No. A great idea. I asked for our table at the entrance and was directed upstairs and once upstairs the smiley staff were very friendly and helpful. In fact once the squatters were promptly kicked off our table – read the sign! – we settled in to enjoy the views. Well, views of the bar.

It is beautiful in the way that The Folly and The Refinery are with potted herbs on the tables to denote your number if ordering food, three stories of drinking levels all open on one side to look out onto City office blocks and plenty of standing space for those who did not plan ahead. It’s fine.

What is not fine is paying £4.40 a pint for Meantime LPA. I thought at the time it must be a very special beer but paid £3 for the same beer just two days later in Dulwich. It was a good beer but not that good. We left after two drinks as it was nigh on impossible to carry out a conversation and we were getting mean looks from those evicted from our table. There were more of them than us.

Will I go back? Probably on a Friday night when meeting friends who work that side of the bridge, maybe for one of their doorstop sandwiches and wedges with a wine flight on a quiet Saturday afternoon, but otherwise with The Mayor just up the road it’s a no-brainer really. I appreciate they are trying to be everything to everyone; just pick your visit time carefully.

The Rake, Southbank 15/20*

Location: In Borough Market, Near Beer Wharf

Visit: Wednesday after work

To Note? Best avoided if raining…and in winter

Ambiance 4/5
Design 2/5
Drinks 5/5
Staff 4/5

Extra LBS rating: They can get a * for being the first bar to stock the nectar that is BrewDog

Broken your leg? Wearing killer heels? Prefer a glass of chilled Chardonnay? Cocktail diva? All several reasons not to visit The Rake, and leave it to those who will really enjoy this little gem of a bar.

First thing you should know is that there are only two tables in The Rake. At least I think so as I have never been lucky enough to claim one; everything else happens outside. So if you have an aversion to standing this may not be the place for you. There are wooden benches running the length of the outside area with a mix of garden furniture dispersed throughout and still never enough space. The up-side is that none of this furniture is overly comfortable, and it gets nippy, so chances are someone will vacate a table without you waiting too long.

So it’s outside, with Men’s toilets being the ones on offer to the whole of Borough Market and one woman’s/disabled offering, there is a lack of seating and I am not sure I ever remember hearing music…”Why go?” I hear you clamour.


Lots of beer. You just need to see their daily “what’s on the bar” tweets to know these guys are serious. And more than happy to help you make that choice as long as you do not rock up saying you love Stella, what have they got like Stella? In fact they would probably be more than happy to educate your poor man’s palate anyway. So you stand outside with your never-seen-before beer and you just enjoy being there. There is always a convivial atmosphere, squidging up on the bench for one more, perching on chair arms and huddling for warmth.

Perhaps this is a marmite bar – bit like the aforementioned BrewDog beer – and I am imposing my rose-tinted glasses to it, but I like it. And I hope you do too.

Bramble, Edinburgh 19/20**

Location: 16a Queen Street, Central Edinburgh


Visit: Friday evening, 8pm

To Note? If you cannot see the door look for the doormen, its downstairs behind them. And check out their tea cups on wine glass stems, love it!

Ambiance 5/5
Design 4/5
Drinks 5/5
Staff 5/5

Any extra LBS rating (for that je ne sais quoi): **

If you are venturing down into this Edinburgh bar take note - at the bottom of the stairs there is in fact a glass door. I say this because my companion almost walked through this door - glass and all - to much hilarity...on my part...

So I had heard about this bar from many different corners and was warned that by 8pm on a Friday night we would be lucky to get through the door. Perhaps it was the beautiful Edinburgh evening but as we stumbled in we seemed to be the first customers. I say "seemed" because we were in fact blind. Stepping from a bright evening to a basement bar, we barely made it to the bar safely and promptly decided this was where we were to stay.In fact this did not cause a problem; plenty of space for others to order and a great opportunity to chat to the barmen.

Now i have only docked one point for the whole bar and that was for the menu. I am sure it was great but it was so dark we could not read it! This was a double edged sword because since all barmen love to be challenged (?!) we worked our way through a variety of their own whisky, absinthe and gin creations at an outrageous £6.50 each - we ripped them off!

As we left we saw that the bar was made up of nooks and crannies with antiques couches, there may have even been a bed at the back! The bar was filling up but not overcrowded and the music was turned up ready to go.

It seemed a mix of The Whistling Shop, Bed (anyone remember that one?) and the ever-expanding speak-easy trend. However this is not a criticism - as far as I can see they are taking the best from these ideas and making it work, we stayed for hours and the barmen truly knew their stuff. And the extra two stars? One for the wine-glass-meets-teacup creation and one for a stunning Ardbeg cocktail made over a mini iceberg - genius.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, Shoreditch 16/20*

Location: Behind the SMEG fridge door... (aka Breakfast Club, Artillery Lane)

Website: but it won't tell you much!

Visit: Saturday brunch, around midday

To Note? Book ahead with

Ambiance 3/5
Design 5/5
Drinks 3/5
Staff 5/5

Any extra LBS rating (for that je ne sais quoi): 1 star *

First of all I have to confess this was my first "speakeasy" bar experience so the extra LBS rating is for the excitement of entering a bar behind a bartender straight from the 1950's through a SMEG fridge door. Let's be honest, it's not easy to avoid that smug look as you saunter past the other diners who are clearly wondering just where the hell you are going and what they are missing.

Let me tell you, a real gem bang in the centre of the city. It is a basement bar, so it's dark, but it was cosy, with enough light to see the menu (see Bramble review!) and the music was simply awesome.

We chose to come for brunch so I started with the obligatory Bloody Mary and since I am on a confession role...this was my first ever Bloody Mary - don't judge me! I liked it. I wasn't crazy about it and it is most definitely an acquired taste but the home roasted tomatoes were really flavoursome, lots of spice was perfect for me and I finished the large glass quite happily. The Mayor loses marks on drinks as my drinking companion not only could not face hers (BM virgin too) but was so traumatised she opted for a simple Prosecco! We paid for the untouched drink.

Staff were great: friendly, unpretentious, on-hand, hungover (as I would expect from ood bar tenders who know their products). I do not feel I can fairly judge the ambiance. Not only was this visit a while back before the word got out but not everyone rocks up to a basement bar on a sunny Saturday morning for an alcohol fuelling egg-based meal!

I have subsequently recommended it to everyone. I have also heard "get in before the city boys do" though I am not sure it is really their scene. I will go back, and without the fear of overcrowding or a scary doorman (NOTA BENE Experimental Cocktail Club) and only wish there was one behind every fridge door, the world would be a better place.