Thursday, 24 May 2012

Danger of Death, Hoxton: 17/20

Location: 202 Brick Lane, go into Full Stop Cafe and stairs are on the right hand side

Visit: Friday evening

To Notes: Open 6pm to 1am Wed to Sat and part of the Rushmore group so members only. Do try calling ahead though…

Ambiance 3/5
Design 5/5
Drinks 4/5
Staff 5/5
Extra LBC star: Not really…

First of all I should state that I went with a member and we called ahead but a little bit of charm may get you in if they are not busy. Which they were not.

So I love the interior, low ceilings, intimate little leather booths, large sixties charges that wrap you up round low tables – a mix of a little bit 30’s speak easy and a little bit 60’s mad men. The music was discreet but I remember thinking “cool” and the only down side is the rather strange toilet set up: one toilet but with urinals at the end. This means the whole place smells (the incense had gone out) and yet only one person can use it at a time, or two (male) friends!
The menu was well organised and chaptered into spirits for me it was too long – always quality over quantity. The bar man – Tamas – was more than happy to help us chose and made drinks proficiently and quickly with much cheek and charm. I wish I could tell you what I had, the second one was a red something…and the first one is defying my memory.

I would like like to return, but this is part of the Rushmore Group and people pay good money to be members so I will not hold my breath over an invitation…

Presenting...Street Feast, Hoxton

Location:  1 minute walk from Shoreditch High Street overground station with the Tea building on your left


Visit: Friday evenings only till 20th July

To Note: Well worth braving, even in the rain!

I read a review recently of Street Feast where the author wrote that he arrived “too early”. I pulled up to this Sclater Street carpark at about 7pm and it was nicely buzzing. In my opinion the 18th June was the perfect date – a few weeks in and a little bit drizzly to put off the city slickers!

I started by heading straight to the back of the park for a drink. There was a simple cocktail list at £7 each but somehow a martini glass did not seem suitable and I was delighted to see Camden beer on tap. There was a lager and a pale ale as well as two ciders to my companions delight.

Then it was time for a wander, and being already hungry it was almost torture to see all the choice and knowing I couldn’t eat everything. All the traders are well spaced out and there is plenty of space to just mull around. I finally settled on some onion bhajis to start with which were freshly fried in front of me by Alec and served with a mango chutney and yoghurt recommended by the Bhangra Burger guys; there was a whole range of sides as well as the option to put it in a wrap for a larger meal. You just need to look at these to want them. Look. Don’t you want them?!

Whilst I was deciding on the next course my friends devoured RibMan’s ribs, a huge burrito and plantain chips amongst other things before several of us were convinced that Kimchi Cult was the way to proceed. These are burgers with a deliciously spicy topping of kimchi – a Korean specialty based on cabbage – which sounds weird and tasted great all held in a beautifully fluffy roll that somehow keep it together all the way through to the last finger licking bite.

Finally we decided that we could go one more course and I was presented with a red velvet cupcake. This was delicious and light but at £4 the clear rip off of the night – same price as a burger! I was told that the week before there was a trader with a range of alcohol based sweetness (think baileys muffins) – bring them back!

+ great food at great prices with great atmosphere, rain or not
- two toilets got so busy we had to go seek out a local pub 

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Presenting...G'Vine Gin

Last night, at The Juniper Society, French company G’Vine pitched their gin to two groups of ginthusiasts.

As we all know, France and Italy fight over the claim to have created gin though G’Vine make a good point in saying that Tuscany is a well known juniper source so it is very likely they were making it there, even if not the first to work out that grape based spirit + juniper = yum.

G’Vine are now based in Cognac, France, and use a base spirit made from the quite bland and acidic Ugni Blanc grape. Their gin is distilled in a Florentine still, often used in the perfume trade, and botanicals are infused in four batches for the juniper flavour, high notes, low notes and their unique selling point – since the rest of the botanicals are pretty normal - an infusion of the vine flowers. This has also inspired the name of their two gins:

#1 Floraison (40%)

Named after veraison, a key moment in the lifecycle of a vine when the leaves turn green to red before harvest.
Nose: lime, lots of lime and some floral notes
Palate: more lime, cardamom, very easy drinking with a hint of spice at the end
Mix: these flavours are gentle so simplicity is the key
#2 Nouaison (43.9%)

A higher ABV brings out different notes in the gin
Nose: more ginger and more juniper
Palate: More texture, almost creamy. More spice. More weight. Green spicy finish

So to conclude, not the most exciting gin. Described by the G’Vine team as a gin for gin drinkers and non gin drinkers. I beg to differ. Perhaps this is a good one for beginners but I feel other gins have more to contribute than this particular offering. Maybe its just my palate…

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Public House: Highbury and Islington 19/20

Location: Just 2 minutes walk from Highbury and Islington or 10 from Angel

Visit: Monday and Sunday evening

To Note: Got a speak easy vibe going on but it's hard to miss this gem

Ambience 4/5
Design 5/5
Drinks 5/5
Staff 5/5
Extra LBS Star: Mmm, 19/20 seems good enough

As I was adding up the scores here I realised that I really could not fault it. 

Zone 2 to the NORTH of London is not my usual hang out, ever, however the banter of Public House’s owner Simon on twitter and a picture of Kermit working behind the bar convinced me that this boutique gastro pub would be worth a foray to Highbury and Islington.

Although my friend and I were the only two in the bar at 6.30pm on a Monday, we were not complaining as we felt perfectly comfortable perched at the bar in the centre of the room for a catch up and a Petit Lapin and a Pendennis Club cocktail respectively. These were confidently made and tasted very good with a lovely balance of flavours, sweetness and sour. As the evening progressed, being a school night, I moved onto the beer list which had The Kernel IPA (a good sign, and even better that it was sold out!) and Brew Dog 5AM Saint amongst others with a well rounded selection of wines to boot; my friend investigated a sparkling wine and really enjoyed it, as well as the 1920’s coupe glass it came in. Drink suggestions on the Sunday were even better!

This was a theme of the pub/bar/restaurant – think Powder Keg Diplomacy if you are a South of the river kind of person – with an eclectic mix of leather couches and Louis XIV thrones at the front then medieval high backed chairs, sixties swivel seats and school tables at the back with chandeliers hanging everywhere, even the toilets! And the design really worked. The 20’s – dare I say it “prohibition” - era was also evoked with the music, which I rarely notice in bars but I loved the swingy jazz that they were treating us too.

On a Monday and a Tuesday you can indulge in 2 courses for £10 with no restrictions (like a supplement on steak etc). As some newly arrived friends joined us we took up a table in the back part of the vneue and were furnished with some tasty olives and water was attentively topped up. We all tried each other’s starters; though I think I won out with the sardines on toast and salad there was nothing left of either the lamb shoulder or the pulled pork when the plates were cleared. We all opted for fish as a main, one sea bream and two salmon with scallops. Both were beautifully cooked and the accompanying honeyed carrots went down a treat. Another clean plate round but we stopped short of dessert (the girls together effect?) and Frangelico shots were delivered from the bar instead – we were very flattered and it was a rather nice end to a rather nice evening! Sunday was a day for roasts with the classics (beef, pork and fish/veg too) with a Bloody Mary for £15

It has to be mentioned that the staff were outstanding. Our two barmen for the Monday evening were attentive, efficient servers who knew how to mix a drink. Lucy and Simon lifted the spirits on Sunday. It is all too rare that everything comes together in a boutique pub like it did at Public House.

We could not believe how cheap this evening worked out when the bill turned up and we are definitely going to return again; after all it is only two tube lines away…
Square Meal

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Presenting...Dr Adam Elmegirab Bitters

First of all, he is not a doctor. Sorry. 

Second, Adam came all the way from Aberdeen - bringing his accent with him (I've been in London too long) - to present the London Cocktail Society and I hope he felt it was worth it because we all really did have a great time, best event yet...

Thirdly, I have never been as tipsy as I was at this tasting so it may get vague towards the end. 

So, bitters... more than just for getting drunk?

I shall start with the bits and bobs of history that I wrote down, feel free to skip to the drinks underneath:

The original recipe for the bitters that Adam has spent years recreating exists in two places: New York where the bitters company was originally created and Mexico City at the Casa di Bokers. Used the past as a remedy for indigestion amongst other things, Adam has dug into the history of the creating family and the label (which he used to individually sign and glue on) reflects this work. 

So what are bitters? Essentially they are overproof spirits and botanicals. They can either be potable i.e. drinkable such as Campari or non potable i.e. used for flavour. Being the first new bitters company in 100 years the explanation of his product on setting up was no easy task! You see Adam is not distilling but needs a compound license to change the flavour of the base spirit...

How do I taste bitters? Try them on an ice cube, in a vodka cocktail or simply with soda water (or when cooking add Aphrodisiac to your chilli, Bokers to your chicken and Dandelion & Burdock to your lemon sorbet)

What is the inspiration? The Bokers was the original recipe and that Adam extended into Spanish bitters (with citrus and camomile) designed especially for a Spanish drinks competition, Dandelion & Burdock (citrus, ginger and anise too) from childhood drinks and Aphrodisiac bitters (cocoa, spice) were created to treat "Dickensian illnesses" for the Zetter Townhouse - a favourite of mine.

1500 bottles a month now go out to 18 different countries with more growth day by day!

For more info on this side see Adam's blog and how it all started at

Lets get straight in with the drinks of the evening now:

#1 Caorunn Gin and Fentimans Tonic with Dandelion and Burdock bitters and an apple garnish :Liquorise notes, a little earthy and I got more juniper on this but may have been the gin

#2 Adnams Copper House Gin and Fentimans Tonic with Spanish bitters and a lemon garnish: Violets and citrus flavours were stronger and had more of a kick

#3 Adnams First Rate Finest Cut Gin anFentimans Ginger Ale with Aphrodisiac bitters and a lime garnish: Fresh!

#4 "Horses Neck" Adnams Copper House Gin and Fentimans Ginger Ale with Bokers bitters and a lemon twist: Earthier

And a cocktail recipe for you to finish:

Highland Picnic

25ml Caorunn Gin
25ml Lillet Rouge
25ml Apple Juice
3 dashes of Dandelion & Burdock bitters

1) Shake with ice then top with lemonade
2) Garnish with fruit and mint or rosemary

Perfect alternative to Pimms