The Lost Angel & Gaslight Grill, Battersea

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Quirky
Damage£ – ££
Ideal for: Food, Sundays, Gin, Live Music

 

Now here is a long-time favourite.

A hungover Sunday’s solution is always in the Angel’s arms. Even if it means travelling an hour from Greenwich and cowering in the corner till that spectacular Sunday roast comes around.

Sorry, I think I drooled on the keyboard.

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Trying to pin the Lost Angel’s design is a bit difficult. Its jazzy, Victorian, 60’s randomness, upscale pub vibe somehow *works*. It lends to a really comfortable, relaxed atmosphere with live music in the day time; to a raucous party in the evenings – both indoors and in the large garden in the back. It’s that laid back attitude that makes it one of my favourite Sunday spots.

But it’s not just that, the LA hosts several events, from various DJ nights, extended happy hours throughout the week, and Gin Soaked Thursdays – where you can explore the LA’s reputation as a gin palace with a choice of its 30 different gins at 6 pounds each.

 

Drinks wise, the menu is varied, but tends towards the sweeter on many occasions – but there are still drier, intense cocktails to choose from. Classics can always be requested.

Without argument, their Bloody Mary game is on point. And they dish them out faster than you could believe. The Bottomless Bloody Mary Sundays get you as many as you like for only 15 pounds, and to that deal you can add a Sunday roast for 10. I normally go straight for the Spice Route Gimlet, Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin’s playfulness blends wonderfully with cardamom and lime cordial, and a star anise garnish. A strong gimlet with a spicy Eastern twist, don’t let the lime cordial-instead-of-juice fool you, this drink still packs a punch.

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Cucumber, Jalapeno & Coriander Margarita
…does exactly what it says on the tin. Lively, spry, spicy as all hell, this drink is perfect for the afternoon. Another bar could take a lesson here on how to salt a rim; you’re not supposed to make the drinker cringe. The Marrakesh Martini, saffron infused Beefeater gin, apricot liqueur, orange bitters, spiced sugar, ginger and lime juice has great potential, but often is drowned out by the apricot liqueur. A good idea is to let the bartender know to turn that down a bit.

The Strawberry Amaretto Sour makes an excellent dessert drink with fresh strawberries and egg white, as well as the Lost Skipper with dark rum, Chambord, blackberry jam and red wine.

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The admirable aspect to the LA’s cocktail list is how straightforward they are, often twists on the classics, they do exactly what they say will – which makes the Lost Angel a great introduction to cocktails.

This is where the Lost Angel’s charm lies: It’s laid-back, and out there to make a fun drink, without overcomplicating things, and without pretension. It is a reminder that complex reductions and vaporisers aren’t necessary to earn high points, neither is unwavering devotion to the classics – simplicity can be the key to a welcoming venue on a harsh Sunday morning.

Seriously though, that roast.

PS: Please update the website’s cocktail menu! People be missing the Jalapeno Margarita!

Drinks: **** (Especially deserving on discounted hours)
Atmosphere: ****
Service: ***

The Lost Angel & Gaslight Grill

339 Battersea Park Road,
London SW11 4LS

http://www.lostangel.co.uk

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Communion Bar, Camberwell

Type of BarHotelBasementQuirkyTheme
Damage£ – ££
Ideal forDateSmall GroupsLarge Groups, Live Music

Who said church wasn’t fun.

This gem tucked away under Church St Hotel in Camberwell is a welcome addition to London’s bar retinue as of December. In fact, this is one of my longer reviews, going through so much of the menu – primarily because many of London’s cocktails bars seem to have forgotten that Happy Hour does not instantly make your bar a Yates. In fact, it is the perfect time for intimate drinks and snacks at Communion, with a wonderful cocktail list.

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For one, can we talk about this design for a second? Coming through the heavy wood and metal-hinged door into the depths of the hotel’s basement, stained glass windows adorn the hardwood panelling, depicting various scenes from the Bible, primarily Genesis and Revelations – among them the Hoodooist’s favourite Biblical scene: The Worship of the Golden Calf, sprawling on the wall across from the bar.

There is a slightly infernal and deliciously sacrilegious feel about Communion – peculiarly macabre stained glass scenes in a dark, basement venue are paired with upbeat Soul and Funk tunes, and on weekends, live bands of the same genres. You’ll notice no bar stools to make the most of the space to dance to the live bands.

Taking our seat, we notice that each table comes with communion wafers and a beautiful little shot of red wine, poured daily. I gave it a moment’s thought – what I love about the atmosphere here is that it has a strong theme, without it becoming gimmicky by overwhelming you with introductions, stories, character bartenders/servers – or having to come up with a film noir story to get in (*ahem*). The mini-Eucharist was all that was necessary, and the most it should do, to keep the theme without over-doing it. Just about right.

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Looking at the menu, it is longer than at first glance – and incredibly varied. The theme of the first page is that each drink is dedicated to the different cultures that define the bricolage of South London’s landscape.

Our first drink, the sweet Tannery (Vodka, Araku rum coffee liqueur, Nigerian Guiness foam and chilly chocolate) is an excellent espresso-less Espresso Martini. The coffee flavour of the Araku and the head of Nigerian Guiness dishes it out adequately, and the edible chocolate rim that you can nibble away at throughout the drink is a great perk – a perfect balance of coffee and chocolate. The Dry Cherry Ilegal (Ilegal Mezcal, juice of grilled Sicilian lemons, Cherry Marnier and bitters. Served straight up with Amarena Cherry sugar rim) comes with one of my favourite mezcals, whose light smokiness carries the initial citrus of the drink, which opens up on the cherry and the intense sweetness of the sugar rim. Don’t let that fool you into thinking the drink is overwhelmingly sweet, it certainly isn’t – the Sicilian lemon’s tartness mediates it well. Could use a teensy bit more mezcal.

 

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The Ortanique Grind & Bubble (L); and Dry Cherry Ilegal (R).

The Pretty Little Shanty Town (Dark rum, Velvet Falernum, lime, ginger, orange bitters & molasses) begins strongly with ginger and Falernum’s spiciness, ending on the sweetness of the rum and rounded off with the molasses. The garnish of this drink is more the star, with orange slices dried in situ, and irresistible Spanish honeycomb.  The Ortanique Grind & Bubble (dash of Punt E Mes, Vanilla & orange flower infused Stolichnaya, home-made limoncello, fresh Jamaican Ortanique & Prosecco) is a wonderfully fresh and lively drink. The prosecco is, like in all bubbly drinks, the most demanding flavour, but otherwise, the drink opens on the Ortanique and limoncello, leading into the strong Punt e Mes. The Orange flower is somewhat detectable, but I had trouble finding the vanilla.

Less balanced drinks: The Calvary’s (Dicatador Rum, morello cherry, lime, egg white, St John Commandaria wine) sweet wine unfortunately has a tendency to drown out the flavour of the rum, though the morello cherry does eventually take charge – a decent drink, but less so compared to the previous ones. Similarly, the Fresh & Loose’s Scandinavian twist (Beefeater 24 shaken with fresh cucumber, dill, fennel, citrus and egg white, with couple dashes of Peychaud’s bitters) was dominated by cucumber and citrus, with flashes of dill – but still a well crisp drink.

The one drink I was not impressed by was the Outlaw (Jim Beam, home-made cranberry syrup, mint, sugar & chocolate bitters), which was drowned out by the strength of the mint.

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The Pretty Little Shanty Town (L); and Fresh & Loose (R).

 

WHEW. This’ll take up a whole Sunday.

Service through all this was absolutely delightful, attentive, and conversational – we couldn’t have asked for a better hostess. Bartenders were quick and on the ball with their home-made ingredients – there is real talent here.

Really falling for Communion, I almost don’t want to tell you about it. A bit out of the way to get to, but worth the travel; Communion Bar is a rare cocktail bar in the area, and certainly sets the bar high. The Hoodooist looks forward to returning.

 

Drinks: ****
Atmosphere: *****
Service: ****

 

Communion Bar

Church ST Hotel,
29-33 Camberwell Church St,
Camberwell,
London SE5 8TR

http://www.communionbar.com

Street Feast’s #ModelMarket, Lewisham

So, Street Feast has extended its roots into the South East! The immense success, as reviewed, of the Winter 2013-4 Hackney Feast; and the currently running Dalston Yard Feast meant that it was only a matter of time before another one cropped up.

This smaller market houses more of London’s incredible street food talent, but has certain drawbacks as a venue.

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Onto the food!

Killer Tomato’s Esquites: charred corn, chipotle mayo, feta, chilli flakes and lime, were a great snack to have when waiting in line – Killer Tomato is probably the only exclusively-veg place in the venue so far, which is also a relief – generally the market is not veg-an/etarian friendly. The Esquites are also pre-prepared, so are absolute recommendations to snatch a couple up when running to the next stall where you will inevitable wait.

Sambal Shiok is still one of my favourite stalls, kicking it with their usual chicken satay and beef rendang hits (previous review of the beef rending from the Greenwich Food Festival: Sambal Shiok’s spectacular Beef Rendang : marinated in 10 spices and dripping with further chilli sauce, the melt-in-your-mouth meat was coupled spectacularly with the cool Kerabu pickled cucumber and red onions.)

Their Taster Plate is now a mix of the beef, chicken and a lentil option they have introduced – the chicken and beef still beat the lentil, which came off slightly dry – but forgivable considering how crowded they were! Comes with kerabu pickled cucumber, red onion and that wonderful sambal chilli sauce. Get in early for these guys, they sell out!

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Smokestak
has been on my list for a while now – run out of brisket, sadly – I settled for the pulled pork, honey mustard BBQ, green chilli slaw in brioche – absolutely worth the money. These guys know what they’re doing, and knocked it out of the park. Also one of the more popular in the market, Smokestak has the tenderest of meat, though the chilli slaw ain’t as chilli as you’d think (cue Sambal Shiok on how spicy spicy should be).

Deciding it was time for a drink, the Rum Shack offers a great selection of classics with a mean Anejo Highball – aged rum, orange curacao, ginger beer, lime juice and bitters – which goes better as a mid-meal drink than an ultra-dry El Presidente #2.

Finally, the local dessert stall, the SE Brownie Bar is an extension of the SE Cakery at Elephant and Castle’s Boxpark. Hallelujah, Model Market learnt its lesson and added a place that served tea and coffee! These brownies are also fantastic – 5 pounds for six: Salted Caramel, Oreo, Mojito, Peanut, Honeycomb, and Banoffee crumble. Ask to design your own batch if needed and they’ll be happy to! These brownies are fantastic, SE Brownies gives Bad Brownie a run for their money!

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Whereas the Dalston Yard Street Feast is absolutely massive, this one keeps a large queue where guards with clickers decide what size groups go in at a time – obviously this is necessary to not overwhelm the venue, but the place is far too tiny for such a successful market that would be bound to be crowded.

In other words, after standing in line for 15 minutes for places that would inevitably be open in other places in London rest of the week – the loudest voice in my head was “I can’t believe I’m waiting in line to enter a market.”

It is good to see this unused space being put to use, but the initial queuing just to enter the market reminds you of the reasons you don’t go clubbing. It definitely puts a dampener on the evening. I was excited that it’s only a short bus ride from my place, but I feel like I’d rather be travelling up to Dalston Yard instead.

Is Street Feast over? Doubt it; it is still a great venture with excellent food, just a terrible venue. The gentrification of Lewisham is kind of sad to watch. But with food this good, you kinda go with it.

 

Like the other Street Feast venues, the list of stalls change now and again, so make sure to check the website every week!

Street Feast,
http://www.streetfeastlondon.com/
Twitter: @StreetFeastLDN

… Loves Company, Old Street

Type of Bar: Quirky, Multi-tasking
Damage££
Ideal for: Events, Industry, Small Groups

A self-identified ‘industry bar’, LoCo has rehashed its image and menu to be more approachable to the wider public, according to our wonderfully conversational bartender.

The renovation is…interesting. I recommend going to the much more comfortable and playful basement area. The upstairs area consists of dark, cramped entrance bar, and on the right a bright artspace that is repeatedly painted over for a new artist to come and provide some new artwork, creating a protean, ever changing space for patrons. This is working both ways – in its current first week, we are glad to see Ed Hicks’ great work up on the wall, but providing this involves incredibly bright lighting (beautiful though the copper-pipe light fixture is), resulting in what a friend described as “fast-food-chain lighting”, especially oppressive in the daytime.

The bar is rather ambitious with hosting multiple events, repeatedly changing the menu, via contests and guest chefs, and the art as well. Some of these events, like Rematch Beeyatch, in fact make this more of an ‘industry bar’ rather than less.

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Regarding the drinks, I have to admit, I missed their old menu. The new menu has a distinctly Loungelover feel in the choice of drinks. Our bartender explained they were trying to inject fun into the menu by adding ‘secret ingredients’ to each of the drinks, under code names like “Aphrodisia No.9”, a spiced aromatic concoction; or “Powdered Libido” which was cayenne and paprika.

I sort of get the idea? Personally, I found it to be bit of an annoyance. Thankfully it was quiet, so our bartender was free to usher us through the menu, but I wouldn’t want this hassle on a busy night. I adored our server, but I felt like I needed to take notes just to keep track.

In any case, our first and favourite drink, the Rocky Horror was a spicy wonder. Absolut Vodka, Grand Marnier Cherry, Lime sugar syrup and Powdered Libido, garnished with a red pepper; provided a pepper-spiked and tart drink for the summer sun. I rarely go for tall drinks, but when they come with an edge like the Rocky Horror does, I can’t help myself. A Floradora-meets-Bloody Mary.

Our second drink was a bit of a disappointment, primarily because of the ‘secret ingredient’, but since it is created in-store, can always go through future re-tweaking – it is only their first week. The DayJar Vu (raise an eyebrow if you got that): Four Roses bourbon, lemon juice, and Aphrodisia No.9. The Aphrodisia is a blend of spices, cinnamon, cloves, among others; the drink is accompanied by large garnishes of grapes and flowers (re: the punny name). The drink has immense potential with a bit of tweaking – the intended depth to be provided by the complex Aphrodisia ends up more confused, resulting in a primarily cinnamon flavour overriding almost everything except the lemon juice.

For the third drink, I asked Mr. Gerakis to recreate a drink from the old menu, the Mr. Martinez Heads East. The original was a Martinez with a spicy twist by using Opihr gin, but since they didn’t have Opihr in stock, the drink was recreated by muddling the drink with cardamom and a couple of spices. The cardamom was the most prominent flavour, but the drink was still very satisfying and I love our bartender for going out of his way and thinking on his feet with this one.

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When it comes down to it, Loves Company is primarily an industry bar, more so now than before (though apparently the rehash was meant to accomplish the opposite) – but it doesn’t take away from its ambitious charm, and is perhaps a great pitstop on the way to the industry if you are interested in joining in. With names like Harry Gerakis, Russell Burgess and Lee Baker involved, it has a strong heart; but should keep an eye on how much it’s trying to do too fast.

I’m left feeling ambivalent, I like the bar providing several services and events, but it is especially overwhelming that the moment you walk in, you are bombarded with info about the current artist, the next toast match, the new menu, the secret ingredients, the Rematch event that weekend, and the events and performers following for the following weeks.

Service-wise, it was wonderful, adored our bartender who went out of his way for our drinks and to chat – but I haven’t experienced it on a crowded night and how thin the servers might be stretched with questions regarding the secret ingredients – we were assured it isn’t a problem.

I wish Loves Company the best of luck, it has an amazing amount of potential for being a hub for meeting up and coming bartenders, but they seriously need to update their website (Sorry Lee, I know I’ve been bugging you about this) =P

Drinks: ***
Atmosphere: Upstairs: *, Downstairs: ***
Service: ****

… Loves Company

Unit 1, Imperial Hall,
104-122 City Road,
London EC1V 2NR

www.lovescompany.co.uk

The Delaunay, Aldwych

Type of Bar: Bar/RestaurantCentral European
Damage: ££
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups, Large Groups, Food

Anyone who has met me knows I do love a good Corbin and King. And I love the Delaunay no less. The Central European charm is all very coded-telegram-in-the-croissant which appeals to me to no end – this is a matter of taste, though. The 1940s feel, with its hardwood and white cloth deserves a bit more effort in the appearance department from the clientele. But the superbly presented staff, who are just the right mix of warm and cold, suit perfectly.

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Even though my priority is cocktails, it is far too easy to get distracted by painfully shiny silver coffeepots and the most tempting of viennoiserie and patisserie, baked to perfection, dressed immaculately. The menu (breakfast, brunch, lunch and a la carte), is generally simple comfort food, but one can’t complain when it is done so well. The choices and twists on the ice cream coupes makes coming here or to the deli counter just for sweet worthwhile in itself. Expect typical central European fair of wursts, frites, brioche and schnitzel. An obscenely long list of starters is accompanied by a short entree list of exclusively meat – leaving very little for vegetarians, unfortunately.
Bringing myself back to my purpose with drinks – expect a short list of very simple, two-ingredient classics. 8 to 9 pound well-made Old Fashioneds, Last Words and Sazeracs. Although the Manhattan ordered perfect came a bit more on the dry side.

For a less intense flavour, do try the Veritas (Bourbon and Port). If my taste wasn’t for the short and strong, I might find myself complaining at the lack of tall, fruity drinks – but the Delaunay is really sticking to its guns to protect its classic European atmosphere you’d expect right out of Coppola’s ‘Youth Without Youth‘. The Delaunay demands a long, languid dinner.

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If you have visited Fischer’s, another Viennese  Corbin and King establishment, you have an idea of exactly what the menu might look like – just less formal. If you enjoyed it, you’ll certainly enjoy the Delaunay.

If you like trendy, juicy, chrome and glass – this is not the place for you.The Delaunay earns high scores for excellent atmosphere, on-the-ball service and rather good bartending, even if the list is short and classic.

If you enjoy Corbin & King’s work, do check out our review of the Bar Americain @ Brasserie Zedel, Soho!


Drinks
: ***
(if you consider this is primarily a restaurant, ****)
Atmosphere: *****
Service: ****


The Delaunay,

55 Aldwych,
London WC2B 4BB

http://www.thedelaunay.com/‎

Mandarin Bar, Mandarin Oriental, Knightsbridge

Type of Bar: Hotel, Oriental
Damage££££
Ideal for: Date. Welp, you can’t fit any more people in here.

The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park is less of a destination and more of a pitstop. It’s an ‘I haven’t got a table for the Blumenthal yet’ kind of purgatory.

Finding ourselves here after a friend’s birthday dinner, I suppose we were expecting an indulgent, becouched, besuited den of iniquity, but instead found short-sleeve shirts and a tiny bar.

The environment and décor felt a bit dated, but not dated enough. The 90s pan-Asian feel and cramped spaces were awkward. The lounge music suffered a similar problem.  But if you were lucky enough to find yourself in a comfortable space like we had, you’d have a chance to deconstruct the cocktail menu in your own time.

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Which was odd. It’s insistence on an ‘Oriental’ feel ended up with a minestrone issue. “Is this flavor used on the other side of the planet? Let’s throw it in with half a dozen other ingredients, one spirit and probably some bubbly.” None of the drinks really stood out. One example is the Fig Martini – drowned in pineapple juice. The Grass Mule, for example, would have made a fantastic East Asian Martini without the ginger beer.

In need of a warming drink, I went for the Dine (Cognac, Port, red wine, Angostura, almond, lemon), which was pleasant enough, but not much to write home about. It stood out because unlike many of the drinks, it was alcohol-based with flavor – instead of a juice smoothie with alcohol thrown in for kick. I must applaud the use of avocado in the drinks as well, which is a nice change from egg white for similar texture.

Of course, if juicy drinks are your thing, by all means make your way to the Mandarin, but judge if 16.50 is what you want to pay for one drink that doesn’t feel all that deserving – especially when you have similarly priced giants like the Savoy or the Dukes – I don’t see myself rushing back any time soon.

NOTE: I would give drinks 3 stars to make room for those who enjoy juicier drinks, but with the price they are charging for mediocrity, I am tempted to give it only 2 stars.

Drinks: ** (***, possibly.)
Atmosphere: **
Service: ***

The Mandarin Bar
Mandarin Oriental Hotel,
66 Knightsbridge,
London SW1X 7LA

www.mandarinoriental.com/london/fine-dining/mandarin-bar/‎

Holborn Dining Room & Delicatessen, Holborn

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, British
Damage££
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups, Large Groups, Food

My word, is this place beautiful.

We stumbled onto the HDR and were glad for it. My hangover needed as much food as it could stomach.

The atmosphere is reminiscent of a Corbin and King venture (always a good thing) and the cocktail menu is uncomplicated and unique without trying too hard. The bright room with its shades of red, creams and whites accentuated with gold linings create a peculiar vibe of Vienna-cum-Manhattan, and is successfully versatile as a venue. Expect to see a roughly equal mix of dates, couples, families and friends on a lunch out. On that note, the venue looks its best in the daytime.

The enormous venue houses a bar, large dining area, and charcuterie counter with seats. The hot and cold counter menus provide more than enough choice for bites in the side of your drink with reasonable prices.

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Unless you’re dining, do get a seat at the bar for the rousing chats with the bartenders. With drinks reasonably priced, you really can’t say no to a second. It may be a short list, but it is effective. The Highlander (Bulleit Borboun, spiced honey, hazelnut) does the job with its simplicity and perfectly reflects the bar’s feel of modern unpretentious sophistication.

The one drink that seemed out of place, yet worked wonderfully was the Camden Town Treacle: Havana rum combined with fresh apple juice and ‘Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Reduction’, was just the right combo of sweet and tart. And who knew rum and black ale reduction created whiskey? Which makes one wonder if it would work as just ‘Whiskey and apple juice’?

But you can’t go wrong with the cigar-esque Montecristo Daiquiri, tobacco infused Havana rum, vanilla liqueur and lime juice – sweeter on the nose than expected, but the rush of flavours upon the first sip need a few moments on the palette to separate.

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The quintessentially British menu is absolutely worth the money (Starters at roughly 8 pounds, Sirloin steak at 24), and cooked to perfection. If there is any complaint regarding the food, it would be the menu, which desperately needs more vegetarian options that are not the tired mushroom risotto. Speaking with the manager, it seems this problem had been mentioned before, and the main launch would consider more original options for vegetarians.

Service was blameless. Upbeat and on the ball bartenders and waiters make the service worth it. Definitely look forward to returning.

Drinks: ****
Atmosphere: *****
Service: ****

 

Holborn Dining Room

252 High Holborn,
London WC1V 7EN

www.holborndiningroom.com/‎