Farang pop up @ The Lodge, Clapham

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Thai, Pop Up
Damage£ – ££
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups, Food

Working together at the Brook Green Farmer’s Market in West London, Seb Holmes of The Begging Bowl and Smoking Goat fame, and Tomas Lenko, mastermind behind the impossibly popular Bold London Spirit, have set up a three night pop up at The Lodge Clapham!

With Seb at the grill and Tomas behind the bar, Farang brings Thai street food with a greater focus on seasonal ingredients, at all their pop-ups, supperclubs, and street markets. The modestly sized venue at The Lodge also hosts a private dining space upstairs which seats groups of 10-12, with its own personal balcony looking over Clapham North.

Let’s have a look at the cocktails!

Farang London Thai pop up cocktails food restaurant

A favourite of bars like the Sun Tavern, and Discount Suit Co., Bold London Spirit is not to be confused with a cherry liqueur! At a solid 36% ABV, this all-natural cherry aperitif mixes 15 botanicals including sour cherries, juniper berries and cassia bark for a spicy bitter spirit that is lightly sweet and floral, adding a fun twist to cocktails that demand Maraschino or more warming flavours.

Tomas explains that the cocktail menu for Farang veers toward the sweeter side to contrast with the punchy, spicier flavours of the dishes.

Beginning with an amuse bouche of sorts: a short citrusy shot of Bold with gojiberry, and plum bitters, we order our aperitifs.

Unlikely for an aperitif, the Smoked Thai Ice Tea mixes lapsang souchong tea, Bold spirit, cherry reduction, fresh lemon juice, layered with coconut milk. Served long, this cocktail is served beautifully – so do allow yourself a little cry when you realise that you have to stir the drink to mix the coconut milk with the drink.

A starter milkshake of sorts, the cocktail is sweet and velvety with the light milk. Like many of the cocktails on the menu, is granted a smoky profile thanks to the lapsang souchong, which lingers in the background as the cherry and cassia dominate the cocktail.

It’s been a while since the Hoodooist enjoyed a sweeter drink, and this was it!

Farang London Thai pop up cocktails food restaurant

The Smoked Thai Ice Tea!

The Toasted Coconut Negroni is for the crowd with less of a sweet tooth: brings together Bold spirit, campari, toasted coconut infused gin. This deep, dark cocktail has some serious swagger, a quick bright wash of Campari is immediately followed by the cherry, and finally – a powerful hit of sweet and smoky coconut, with a trail of juniper to follow.

You want to let this one smoke in its bottle for a bit before pouring it, and don’t take your time with it either. Letting it sit sends the flavours haywire. Enjoy promptly while making your order.

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The Toasted Coconut Negroni

Finally, the Ong-Bak: Barrel-aged Bold spirit stirred with SangSom rum, wolfberries and aromatic bitters. I have to admit, I struggled with this one – not to say it was a bad drink, no – it was kind of a rollercoaster of flavours here. If you’re looking for something more bitter, aromatic, and dry, you found your drink!

Farang London Thai pop up cocktails food restaurant

Farang’s brief food menu aims at sharing plates where you dig in and get messy, and comes in small and large portions. Not knowing what to expect, the pair of us went for two large and two small plates and found ourselves with entirely too much to eat – yet still ended up demolishing most of the food, wracked with guilt with not being about to devour all of it.

Beginning with the small (but still sizable) plates of Crispy Vegetable Wontons with Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce, and Tempura Vegetables and Burnt Chilli Dipping Sauce – both dishes are simple and elegant.

The wontons being among the better I’ve experienced. No unnecessary parcelling here – there is only as much wrapper that is absolutely needed, leaving more to the spiced herbs and vegetables inside. The tempura vegetables come with betel leaves, lightly curried, and served with an exquisite smoked grilled  chilli sauce I wish I always had on me!

 

Farang London Thai pop up cocktails food restaurant

Gola Chicken Satay in banana leaves

For our large plates we began with the Nham Prik Ong with Asian Vegetables and Grilled Sardines – out of sardines, a large grilled mackerel accompanied the Nham Prik Ong: a rich minced pork and tomato relish with dried soy bean, raw vegetables, and East Asian herbs. Deciding to just go in for the kill by using the vegetables or salted turmeric butter roti to scoop up the mince – much less stressful than picking through the mackerel’s bones in the then-dim light of the restaurant.

 

Finally, the Half a Free-Range Baby Gola Chicken cooked in Banana Leaves – as much as I dislike the word, ‘succulent’ is really the best description here. This is pretty damn sizable for half a baby chicken.

Tender and so juicy, the banana leaves are unwrapped to reveal the chicken steaming and sauced with peanuts, with powerful flavours of traditional ginger and garlic, coconut, sweet basil, and cumin. For someone who normally steers clear of chicken, ordering the Gola Chicken was a decision I’m glad we made.

Farang London Thai pop up cocktails food restaurant

“Farang is open at the lodge this Monday 18th and the following 25th from 5:30-10:00, and though it’s looking busy so far for these weeks, there might still availability for both, bookings via info@faranglondon.co.uk.
After this, Farang is doing its next San Daniele del Friuli supper club in Highbury at 15:00 on May 2nd, with the menu launching this week, it will be including dishes such as curried sharing crab and green tea, pandan and condensed milk ice cream with banana fritters. Farang will also celebrating A late Thai new year at this event with a selection of wines from Thai wine producers Monsoon Valley. Bookings for this are also open now via info@faranglondon.co.uk !”

Basically: Grab a seat if you can get one.

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

 

Farang @ The Lodge
18th and 25th April

409 Clapham Rd, Clapham North
London SW9 9BT

http://www.faranglondon.co.uk/
http://www.boldspiritslondon.com/

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The Light Lounge, Chinatown

Type of Bar: Lounge, LGBTQ
Damage££
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups

After writing about the closure of many LGBTQ venues in London, the Hoodooist was rather pleased to hear that the recently opened Light Lounge by award-winning Ku Bar was going strong and released a new line of cocktails for SS16 down in Chinatown!

Light Lounge Chinatown gay bar Ku London cocktails

Design-wise, the bar is going *very* lounge with dark walls, mirrors, dim lighting. Certainly comfortable, though a small space. Ambience is chilled out and relaxed as lounge music is played even on DJ nights.
However, I can’t help but feel that it feels ever so slightly dated, though not offensively so yet. Especially with the retro noughties chic (is it time we can call it retro yet?) blue lights/low couch combo making it a bit samey with many gay bars in Soho.

Marie provided swift, courteous service with Nikita and Peter behind the ba; watched over by portraits of Marlene and Bowie.

Light Lounge Chinatown gay bar Ku London cocktails

The menu focuses less on classics, and on sweeter cocktails – the Hoodooist went for something more his style.

A classic Boulevardier can’t stir you wrong. Bulleit bourbon, Campari, Martini Rosso sweet vermouth provide a Boulevardier that’s slightly on the sweeter side.

Still, a fairly decent classic – however, £10.50 is pretty darn steep for a Boulevardier. Especially with Bulleit and Martini Rosso.

Light Lounge Chinatown gay bar Ku London cocktails

The Boulevardier

Next on the list is the house original, the Catrina’s Kiss. Don Julio Blanco tequila, agave, lime juice, grapefruit juice, and a dash of Tabasco. A short twist on the Paloma, the Catrina’s Kiss is a balance of sweet from the agave and grapefruit, and sharp citrus from the tequila and lime.

Starting sharp and peppery, a silkiness and sweet sets in, ending with a kick of spice. Ordered on separate occasions, the amount of spice varied drastically, so probably best you specify how much Tabasco you’d like!

Light Lounge Chinatown gay bar Ku London cocktails

The spicy Catrina’s Kiss

Finally, the truly bizarre Death Flip. Don Julio Blanco tequila, yellow Chartreuse, Jagermeister, one whole egg and a splash of salt water, garnished with a chocolate finger.

Reminding us that often, 5 powerfully flavoured ingredients is too many. Sure, it’s got the overall flavour of salted caramel (kinda), but make sense out of it, I couldn’t. Was it sweet? Or herbaceous? Or medicinal? Or citrus? The chocolate finger didn’t really add to the drink, either, and seemed completely unrelated.

Light Lounge Chinatown gay bar Ku London cocktails

The Death Flip

One can’t simply help but feel that the bar would receive higher drinks ratings if the range and quality of the cocktails matched the prices on a say, 8.50 to the occasional 10 pound. But I imagine spaces like this in Chinatown don’t come cheap (just ask Leicester House).

The Light Lounge by Ku is heartening to see when much of queer and alternative culture is struggling in London, and I’m sure we are looking at a successful hang out spot right here. Hope to see more from Ku in more than just the West End where their four venues are concentrated.

All in all, the Light Lounge is a handy place to meet for an afternoon drink in the quieter hours, or even for a casual meeting with it’s relaxed ambience.

 

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

The Light Lounge

1 Newport Place, Chinatown
London, WC2H 7JR

http://www.thelightloungelondon.com/

Fortaleza Tequila Takeover @El Nivel!

Rarely seen in the UK, Fortaleza Tequila is finally making some more noise in London!

Appearing at London tequila bars El Nivel, Covent Garden and El Camion, Soho, Global Brand Ambassador Stefano Francavilla came in for a few days with several bottles of one of the highest rated tequilas in the city.

Obviously, the Hoodooist was not missing this.

Tequila Fortaleza London El Nivel Cocktails

The Fortaleza Anejo

The powerful citrus and pepper nose of the Blanco prepares you for a drink that is strong with lime and cooked agave, with hints of vanilla among the green herbaceous flavours, which – as a Stockholm-hailing friend described it – like sipping a Swedish pine sauna. A very easy going and complex blanco.

The Reposado does a face heel turn: 8 months in American Oak gives it a caramel and agave nose, with the oak’s butterscotch flavours paired with some agave, vanilla and warm (cinnamon?) flavours. A lasting spice length to this gorgeously smooth tequila.

18 months in American Oak make the Anejo a long, deliciously smooth, surprisingly sweet drop. Sweet fruity and winter spice dominate the nose, the palate is rich and sweet. Toffee and butterscotch play alongside the agave and light citrus – but over time, the sweetness of hazelnut comes bursting through, and the tequila turns to full on liquid candy. You need to take your time with this luxurious spirit.

Tequila Fortaleza London El Nivel Cocktails

And here’s the kicker: an unreleased expression stored in a just-dodgy-enough plastic container was behind the bar at El Nivel: a 46% Fortaleza Blanco, expected to release in a few months.

And I have to say, it was probably my favourite.

Nose strong with agave and lime, pepper and probably tropical fruits and aloe gives way to a spicy, herbaceous, incredibly complex Blanco that has surprisingly sweet and malty highlights.

Keep an eye out for this one, kids!

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Specifically for the event, El Nivel prepared a series of cocktails: The Cocktail # 4 mixed the Fortaleza Anejo, QuiQuiRiQui mezcal, Antica Formula sweet vermouth, and Benedictine, making a drink that began with the bitter Benedictine, followed by the tobacco smokiness of the mezcal, ending on the orange zest and butterscotch sweetness of the vermouth and Anejo. Wonderful.

Tequila Fortaleza London El Nivel Cocktails

Concoction numbers 1 and 4!

Don’t you worry, readers – the Fortaleza range is here to stay. As it gains ground in London, it will probably hold more of a place as a sipping tequila than one for cocktails, but as we saw in the #4: this promises to change.

And for you tequila fans and connoisseurs, worry not: more Fortaleza Tequila can be found behind bars at El Nivel, and El Camion! So go ahead and treat yourself to some of the finest agave spirits to make it across the Atlantic.

Honestly, you’ll thank yourself for it.