Friday, 22 June 2012

Brixton Village...More to Come

I recently visited Brixton Village, something I have been meaning to do for many months but kept seeming to get my timings wrong. This was following on from a review by Jay Rayner and about a lot of talk about regeneration. And how right they were. So instead of just doing the usual write up I plan to dedicate a section to this great little South London find and here are my priorities:

Franco Manca for sour dough pizza

Elephant for Pakistani street-food / curry

Mama Lan for Bejing Street Food 

Honest Burgers (for burgers!)

I have already done Seven for tapas and cocktails and LAB G for ice cream so keep posted for these, and more, entries 

Monday, 11 June 2012

Presenting...American Gins (at World Gin Day)

What better way to celebratethe 9th June, World Gin Day, than with a selection of gins from our neighbours across the Atlantic. This was put on at Graphic - no surprise there! - and thanks to the generosity of David aka @summerfruitcup. A man with the most impressive gin selection I have ever seen!

So we tasted the 9 selected gins blind and in flights of three, and this is what I thought:

(1) The nose doesn't give much away though does get more bubblegummy as it goes on but there are lots of red berries on the palate and a hint of spice, more coriander seed, not much (any?) juniper

(2) Slightly "meaty" nose and then the palate, wow, methnol flavours, sort of citrus pine toilet cleaner and meaty on finish. Cannot help thinking this would be a difficult mix.

(3) Slightly golden tint and that is the only thing that is interesting. The nose and palate, bland and overtly alcoholic. Not for me.

(4) More interesting than no 3 so straight away better. Smooth, creamy and classicly "gin-y", spice notes, nice

(5) Very different again, lots of citrus peel, palate is "pine-y", nice hit at the end, good length

(6) Nice, brief peppermint notes then lots of aniseed, it then gets quite sweet and there is quite a lot of pine-y juniper again - MY PERSONAL WINNER

(7) This isjust OK, pine-y, quite creamy texture, quite classic gin

(8) Orange shortbread nose, fruity, quiet and a hint of spice that is missing from gin no 7

(9) A butterscotch nose is nice, sweet but not very gin-y

So, now you know what I thought, what was I drinking:

1 -Square 1, and not even a gin but a botanical infused vodka
2 - Aviation
3 - Cascade Mountain, made with juniper only
4 - Pinkney Blend
5 - 209
6 - Death's Door FAVOURITE!
7 - Junipero
8 - Bluecoat
9 - Cold River, a potato base

Presenting...The Blue Rooms at Zenna, Soho

Last night saw the press night launch for the opening of The Blue Rooms - Bombay Sapphire's Vinopolis creation - in Zenna Bar. This launch seems to be - excuse the phrase - killing several birds with one stone. First, Bombay have somewhere to put all their stock of bottles, glassware and bar equipment over the summer months. Why is this important? All Vinopolis inhabitants have been kicked out for Olympic use! Secondly, it is a chance to put Zenna more on the map, though it is seeing ever increasing popularity. Thirdly, it ties in its official launch on 9th June with World Gin Day from @YetAnotherGin. This is the start of a series events for Zenna and Bombay including brand training and the "cocktails olympics" to be run over 5 weeks. It is also an interesting refurb including specially designed shirts for the bar staff, new furniture and a Bombay Sapphire bar turned into the DJ decks, all with the obligatory blue theme. 

Dan, Zenna's manager, has been involved in the creation of the special Bombay cocktails list for this "pop up" and yes I did manage to try most of these. So the Aviation - in the most beautiful glassware of the night (heavy, blue, martini, star design engraved) - was nice, the fresh cherry was a very tasty plus point but I have had better. The Sapphire Summer Sour was not for me since I do not like aniseed flavours but an imaginative attempt to incorporate the indian spices that Zenna normally deal with in their drinks. G&T was served with lime in a bowl glass, fine, I like A LOT of lime with my Bombay G&T. There was also a twist on the Bucks Fizz that was clean and refreshing...a theme for this bar over the "hot" and busy summer months; this is meant to be an urban retreat (my words, not theirs!).

I met the very charming Jari Kutasi who designed the main room's wall collage as well as a video presentation and shirt designer Ross Hancock, surprisingly kookier than Jari, and who I am sure you will cross paths with over the summer months if you venture along.

Zenna had a lot to offer before this Bombay take over, and I encourage you to visit 77 Dean Street on any day of the week. (Don't worry if you are not a Bombay convert, they have the usual stock there too just not on display!)

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Presenting…Courvoisier Cognac at Exmouth Arms

On a Wednesday night when I had no particularly inspiring plans a rather exciting invitation came through twitter. Would I like to attend a food and cognac pairing at a pub on Exmouth Market, somewhere I have long read about and never visited let alone looked up on a map?


So at 7.30 I joined around 20 other young things from the press and blogging world in the upstairs room of the Exmouth Arms (part of the Bar Works group). The lovely Rebecca – Courvoisier Brand Ambassador – handed me a large glass of punch barely before I had my coat off and the combination of cognac, apple juice, apricot brandy, mint and more was beautifully refreshing on a sultry evening.

By 8pm we were sat around two long tables as head chef Paul explained the experiments he has been conducting with cognac and food, communicating the inspiration behind what was to come.

Starter: VSOP Exclusive with Squab, foie gras and pea shoots

The oily texture, tobacco and spice flavours were tempered by the strong game flavours and the fresh young pea shoots lightened the dish

Main: VSOP 12 Year Old with Grilled lobster and spring vegetables

(NB Courvoisier are the first company to introduce age statements to their cognacs, does the average consumer know what VSOP means, or XO…?)

The lobster was not overly salted since there was samphire on the plate and the seasoning was overall to be kept very simple to highlight the quality of all the flavours. This was definitely the favourite of the night in terms of the drink. The lobster tail meat was lovely but I still do not get the fuss, scallop was lovely, with the beard left on too!

Dessert: XO with Chocolate and Hazelnut cake

The intense nuttiness of the cognac is reflected in the pudding and the smooth ice cream softens the spice and allows the palate to linger longer

Then we finished with a sneaky taste of the 21 Year Old Courvoisier which was presented by itself to express its power, flavour, body and length…it was good that is for sure. However I have been lucky enough in my time to try Louis XIII and Hennessey Paradis and so if you are going to make a special cuvee then make a SPECIAL cuvee.

Saying that my conclusion of the evening, not only from what I had tasted but from the crowd in attendance and the presentation is that Courvoisier – long associated with the rapping world – is really very accessible. And that, I think, is a very smart move for any cognac house to make.

(Many thanks to @ginmonkeyuk for the invitation) 

Gas Light Grill at The Lost Angel, Battersea: 17/20

Location: 339 Battersea Park Road (between Clapham Junction and Queenstown Road)

Visit: a sunny Thursday evening launch night

To Notes: If you like the Blind Tiger/Lost Society or PKD look this is for you

Ambiance 5/5
Design 4/5
Drinks 3/5
Staff 5/5
Extra LBC star: With time…

I would not normally write a review of a bar after one visit, especially as that visit was the launch night, and it was HOT when everything seems rosier. But I liked it and I want to spread the word. The Lost Angel has been revamped and they have spruced up the restaurant area – the Gas Light Grill – to make a pub that looks rather ordinary from the outside something rather special once you walk in.

The first room is large, wooden floored with a horse shoe bar in the middle. So far, so good. There are large leather chesterfields across the room, there is extravagant brass work around the eagle statues, there is a golden phone box on the right…hold on, this is no ordinary pub. Carry straight on and you have the rather sultry grill room with a small bar in the corner and a door at the end opening onto the terrace. We tried several morsels of what will be on their full menu and I have to admit the steak – especially smothered in whisky BBQ sauce – is very tasty. Other gems included new season asparagus wrapped in ham and mini steak tartar; emphasis is on fresh seasonal ingredients. Bar snacks are also comprehensive from olives to meat platters to burgers to market fish, starting at £2.50 and going up to £18 for steak.

And then the terrace. Ah, the Not To Be Missed terrace. There is one large area under a clear plastic roof covered over with plenty of greenery that also winds up the pillars, a bar in the corner and leather sofas everywhere you look. The smaller part is more high stools and wooden tables with a large umbrella for those fairer skinned drinkers.

(Ladies, the toilets are like the New York loft apartment that you dream of BUT no full length mirror, shocking considering the detail elsewhere!)

So to the drinks; the bar is incredibly well stocked and all cocktails come in at around £8. There was a restricted menu on for the launch night and extra staff were on hand to ensure service. So I will not judge too harshly the over eager addition of Crème de Violette in my Aviation, and although refreshing the gin based Mojito twist was a little simple and the apple flavours did not come through.

So weighing the good and the ever so slightly less good (including the walk to Clapham through a slightly dodgy industrial estate) I will be back; I hope that locals support it and next time you are looking for a space for a large group, especially as the sun becomes more permanent, The Lost Angel should be at the top of your list to call.