Monday, 30 April 2012

Bunga Bunga, Battersea: 18/20*

Location:  37 Battersea Bridge Road   


Visit: Many Friday evenings, rarely sober

To Note? Downstairs is the restaurant and bar, upstairs is the nightclub. Big Rich the bouncer is awesome, the female hosts are less so. Look out for their brunch

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

Extra LBS star: * for the sheer outrageousness 

Girls dressed like Gaddafi dancing on the bar on a Friday night. Then girls dressed in corsets dancing round the bar. I'm not sure why this surprised me in a place called Bunga Bunga. Perhaps its because on past visits the tables and chairs were removed at a certain time of night specifically to discourage table the customers. 

Eurovision Room
So that gives you an idea of my past visits, mainly post dinner party alcohol fuelled trips upstairs to the "Eurovision" room to dance like the almost 30 year olds that we are; and we love it, especially as the kids have not yet ventured in. The crowd is rather post work suits but up for a laugh. 

So it came as a surprise that I was in Bunga Bunga, sober, on a Friday evening and browsing the cocktail menu. As our outrageously good looking barmen dressed as a gondalier approached we both presumed this man was hired for his "talent" rather than bar skills; how wrong I was. 

I declared that only whisky would do considering the day, week, month I had had and he pulled out a parma ham infused Woodford Reserve cocktail with lapsang souchong syrup; it was really good. My friend's B.A.N.G went down so well we went in for another round. I had a Regalo di Tersigni and my friend took the suggestion offered of an "Italian" job. Again, sticky glasses due to an overeager barman with icing sugar but well crafted. We were also provided with a small pot of very fine parmigiana to nibble on. 

Bunga Bunga ground floor
And perhaps most importantly in between all this we were moved to the end of the bar and treated to four dancing girls every 30 minutes dancing with progressively less clothes and come the end, small fireworks and accompanied by the waiting staff. Interesting. The closest my friend has ever come to a strip club. Frankly thoroughly recommended to lift the mood after a dreadful week at work because you help but smile at this tomfoolery even if the girls looked less than delighted!

(This is also a karaoke bar and a pizzeria which has a lot of praise for its food, toilets play Italian lessons, staff wear lewd aprons and your cocktail may come in Berlosconi's head, or the leaning tower of Pisa, get the idea)

Square Meal

Presenting...The London Cocktail Club venues

The London Cocktail Club, perhaps you've been? They have "locations" at Covent Garden (6-7 Great Newport Street) Goodge Street (no 61) and New Oxford Street (224 Shaftsbury Ave).

I have been to two of these and both were great, as well as distinctly different. 

The first at New Oxford Street (and run by my friend Sarah) was buzzing even by 6.30pm. They also have a fabulous cocktail hour but with the caveat of having to have the same cocktail on the 2-4-1 we chose to go "a la carte" and I started with the Bacon Martini aka heaven in a glass. There were others but this was the most memorable. And did I mention the mugs of (free) tasty pop corn to accompany your drink?!

The design of the bar means that there is privacy to be had, with pillars to peer round and various bunkers to be booked, even finding the toilets is a challenge for the evening. The staff are friendly and more than happy to accomodate the roudy birthday groups with a smile.

Somewhat like the Covent Garden Cocktail Club that is downstairs and members only though this is bookable and free to join. Don't let the huge mirrors on the walls decieve you, this place is not big so hold onto your cocktail if standing near the bar. I am not sure that the skills behind the bar are the same standard as at New Oxford Street but the barmen are friendly, clearly enjoying themselves and fully behind the mid 90's disco soundtrack they were rocking on a Saturday night - total crowd pleaser. 

These places are a great antitode to the much maligned ECC (that I have not been to as risk of a bad evening). They are fun, unpretentious, skilled-at-cocktails bars where you will not leave without a smile on your face. Winner.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Zahra Bar, Clapham: 15/20

Location: The Pavement, Old Town


Visit: Thursday evening, for the jazz

To Note? This is the downstairs bar of Del'Aziz, entrance through the restaurant

Ambiance 2/5
Design 5/5
Drinks 4/5
Staff 4/5
Extra LBS star: Not yet, but this bar is worth another viist

This visit had a rather inauspicious start. First we could not find the place, then we were told that the jazz did not actually start until 7.30 (despite booking a table for the jazz at 6.30) so we popped into Venn Street Records as a warm up (which was, by the way, awesome: great pizzas, great barmen, great music). 

We headed back at 8pm, and guess what? The jazz started at 8.30! We were the first downstairs but were soon joined by 2 large groups which were much needed to build the atmosphere. The room is great, with lots of space for dancing, seats all the way round, large tables for eating earlier in the evening and an middle eastern theme throughout.

Staff were also knowledgable, friendly and the drinks they made from an interesting menu were tasty and well priced at around 8 pounds a go. They also had a wide range of wines and beers, presumably this comes from the restaurant above. 

Unfortunately the jazz was not so good, a little bit "elevator music" for my tastes but despite their efforts no one seemed to be paying attention, they did not get the attention they deserved let alone the applause and soon gave up and got food! 

So after one drink we headed back to Venn St to carry on the party. 

Apparently the bar gets really busy on a Friday and Saturday and they are extending their entertainment with comedy and djs, so I would not write off straight away returning on a busier night.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Presenting...Patty and Bun Joe

Just look at it. It is a tower of oozing, tasty perfectly cooked meat and cheese piled with fresh salad into a melting brioche bun and served alongside a pot of downright tasty rosemary salt chips.

Good news: This is food porn at its best (and yes, Joe is as tasty as his burgers!)

Bad news: This particular Battersea pop up spot with Street Kitchen is over for now but follow @pattyandbunjoe on twitter for the next project

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Presenting...Monkey Shoulder Chocolate Trail (for Easter only!)

Something is happening at 63 Broadwick Street...


Walk past the shelves and trolleys filled with curiosities and keep an eye out for the small brightly coloured wooden Easter eggs that are hidden in the foliage...

When you find one it relates (by colour) to one of these delicious libations

The charming bar tenders will whip you up your drink paired with a top class chocolate from Niko B chocolatier

And then enjoy whilst watching the Easter egg hunt continues around you

Open Easter Friday to Easter Monday inclusive from 12 to 7pm, free

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Presenting...Callooh Callay's New Menu

Callooh Callay members were invited to sample the new menu on Thursday so I signed up with 3 friends - two were CC virgins! 

On arrival I was given my personal menu - a cassette tape with the insert being the menu, fantastic and great 90's style being brought back into fashion. Unfortunately I do not have anything to play the tape in! 

Having already tried one or two that the team had been experimenting with I opted to start with one of the most outrageous on the menu - MARMAGEDDON! The glass was rimmed with marmite - yes, the yeast based spread - and filled with Ocho tequila, lime and beer and it was fabulous. Though none of my friends told me I had marmite on my nose all night one did declare the tequila so good it was like whisky. 

Next I went for the Black Forest Cocktail which was a highlight for me. The mix of cognac, seve, chocoalte bitters and cherry puree satisfied my sweet tooth without being at all cloying and sticky. The grated chocolate was actually the cherry on top. From my friends choices the Ale of Two Cities was really interesting and I was delighted to see Anice and Nephew has stuck it through to this new menu.

If you haven't yet been to Callooh Callay I have one thing to say - WHY NOT? This really could be the best bar in London in my opinion. 

(Must add the kitchen was having problems but their scotch eggs, burgers and hot dogs are worth returning for alone)

Presenting...The London Gin Club

The Star at Night. Heard of it? The bar is in an unfortunate position just now as a train network is being built down the street effectively cutting off any passing trade but it was packing Friday past (30th March) as a rather special launch was taking place...the launch of The London Gin Club.

The Star's owner, Julia, is a gin aficionado. They stock over 40 gins and also do these great little packs to make your own martinis or other gin based cocktails at home with glasses, stirrers and all necessary spirits.  If you fancy signing up - its free! - you get the following benefits:

  • A 5% discount off purchases of premium gin at Gerry’s of Old Compton Street, Soho.
  • A London Gin Club allegiance card, which will reward you for your commitment to gin.
  • A monthly bulletin keeping you abreast of gin news, gin reviews, events at the bar and snippets of gin history.
  • Priority booking for master classes, entertainment nights and gin related events held at The Star at Night.

So the venue itself is a cute little affair with wooden tables and chairs packed into the ground floor and walls plastered with old drinks posters and a spiral stair case leading down to a Gordon's Wine Bar type basement with a curved brick cellar - white washed give more light - and about 10 further tables. 

I look forward to seeing how this progresses in the months to come, and hope that they offer an alternative view to gin and enhance the upcoming scene (including Juniper Society) rather than competing directly.

Presenting... Scotch Malt Whisky Society

The SMWS did an offer last week to tie in with Whisky Live - join for their usual 100 GBP a year and as well as the membership pack that gives 4 x 10cl samples of various whiskies you get a bottle of Mortlach worth around 65 GBP. 

So before joining up I was invited to visit their London base (a further two are based in Edinburgh) which is 30 seconds from the rather nice area of Farringdon. The venue entrance is just off the main street, and above the well known Bleeding Heart Group which in fact also provides the food. Up a set of stairs you enter the main room, there is no reception here just a room of armchairs (think Ikea rather than Scottish Manor) and a bar with a staggering range of the SWMS whiskies to try. 

I started with an Innocent Gun - a new beer for me and utterly delicious with toffee notes from the whisky cask finish. Then a mushroom tart (yummy) was accompanied by three whiskies from a range of areas and an explanation of the menu. They are available by the bottle but more practically by the measurement and like a Yo! Sushi are priced by colour dot on the menu (with almost all at the red price (around 6.10) on a Friday - deal!

You get the chance to buy bottles throughout the year too but where are these from? The SWMS take special casks from around 127 distilleries and check them regularly to see if they are ready to bottle. They are numbered rather than named so 1.1 is the first cask from the first distillery and only the best get through with a cask that does not distinctly differ from the normal bottlings sent back for more time or sold back.

So if you are interested get in touch with the venue, take a quick tour and decide if 100GBP is worth a access to the widest range of malts that I have seen.

Presenting...Sloane's Gin

"A gin without peers"

"World's best gin and best white spirit as well as double gold at 2011 San Francisco competition"

At Juniper Society on Monday 26th March it was time to see what all the fuss was about. A bit of history on gin started the class and the more interesting bits were about Sloane himself. This 16th C. gentleman whom the gin is named after was a physicist and botanist, as well as a lifelong collector of botanicals. These were contributed to and led to the creation of British History Museum on his death and now, a gin. I wonder if he would be proud?!

Now the distilling company is Netherlands based and family owned. They but whole lemons and oranges into water baths for the flavour minus the bitter pith. The distillates are hand blended into the final product.

So to the taste and we started by having the distillates sprayed straight onto the tongue - cardamon was the most interesting with its spicy citrus notes - before trying the finished product, a lemon tinged liquid.

The nose offers - I thought - no more than a simple citrus though it was smooth in its quality, no burn coming out of the glass. The vanilla in the botanicals adds creaminess to the palate and coriander and angelica root beef up the spice at the front. There is also a floral, perfume style to it - but over all it did not stand out.

Perhaps I am just looking for something distinctive in the raft of gins that come out weekly and this did not knock me off my feet

Tip: Not one to drink with Fentimans, try a simple Schwepps G&T instead