Le Petit Chef – A Dinner Time Story @ TT Liquor

Setting sail from Dubai, and travelling all over the world, Le Petit Chef comes to London!

The multisensory, multimedia, multicultural, 6 course event (I know I’m pushing it, it’s a Sunday and I’m craving a Ramos Gin Fizz before noon, sue me) follows the adventures of the Marco Polo, being relived by the tiny Petit Chef, as he guides us through the cuisine of several regions along the way. We begin in the Mediterranean, enter the Middle East and the Maghreb, then South Asia, a short stop in the Himalayas, with a main course in China and ending with a dessert that brings elements of the journey together.

Personally, something I really enjoyed about the event was how family friendly it was. Nadine Beshir has developed a great way of introducing kids to varied cuisines in an accessible, attention grabbing way. As the story unfolds, the décor changes as well, keeping the experience immersive.

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Going in without being sure what to expect, we found ourselves seated on upstairs at TT Liquor (which we know is one of the Hoodooist’s favourite venues, and basically his Hogwarts), with a book set out in front of us.

Soon, I quickly realise there our projectors set up over our heads, and the table comes to life, introducing us to tonight’s Dinner Time Story, as our minuscule chef guides us across the silk route in cuisine.
I was thinking of posting videos of the event here, but then again, I thought I’d leave it up to you to find out!

So, leaving some mystery to the night, let’s get down to the courses!

Each food course is paired with a cocktail, and wine pours throughout the evening, so be prepared for a heavy one!

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Our amuse bouche, honestly is gorgeous and is a good sign for the rest of the evening. Simple and effective: Truffled goat’s cheese and slow roasted tomato, spiralled on a Gruyere sesame seed biscuit with sweet tomato chutney. The umami fullness of the truffle forms a base for the brighter and sweeter tomato chutney, whose savouriness complements the salted cheese gracefully.It’s an amuse bouche that packs a punch.

Tuna nicoise tartlet with a soft boiled quail’s egg immediately follows, condensing a classic into a quickly digestible whole.

Our amuse bouche is paired with a TT Liquor staple that manages to be one of my favourites: Le Chat Noir. A perfect aperitif of Hayman’s Old Tom gin, Lillet Blanc, Henry Bardouin Pastis, fresh lime juice, syrup and tarragon. A light sweetness of the Old Tom and Lillet along with the aniseed of the pastis and the herbaceous tarragon invigorates the palate, announcing the evening.

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Our chef fights the sandstorms of the Middle East and finds himself in a spice souk, making his way through several classics along the way.

Okay, how many ways can I say I adored this course?

A lamb tagine croquette with pistachio crumbs served with a harissa and lemon dip is rich with full meaty sweetness lifted by the pistachio, and brought to life by the spiced and citrus dip.

A filo cup is stuffed with smoked aubergine caviar and a baby ratatouille garnish, and a classic dolma twists itself with more mint and a spicy tomato and cucumber dip, setting itself apart from its store-bought cousins.

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A crispy flatbread is thoroughly dusted in Zaatar, paired with corn fed chicken kibbeh, for a smoky, rich bite.

The course is paired with the Maghrabi TT: gin, spicy honey syrup, lemon, Verbena tea and mint. This cocktail, though intriguing on its own, I fear struggled a little with the flavours of the course, often risking over-crowding – particularly the verbena tea.

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Sweeping into South Asia, we are served butter chicken on mini poppadom with mint raita – I mean, butter chicken is a classic that it is impossible to not enjoy, mildly spiced with a buttery fullness that’s brought alive by the fresh mint raita contrast. Immediately followed by a cauliflower pannacotta with a gobi aloo (cauliflower and potato) tartar served in a crisp puri.

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Our cocktail pairing is a Pineapple Mango Cobbler – vermouth bianco, fresh pineapple, fresh mango and kaffir lime cordial. A low ABV break from our last two courses, the fruit flavours of a summer in India bring a balanced sweetness to this savoury course.

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We take a break with a sorbet of pink grapefruit and lychee in the Himalayas, with one of the most visually enjoyable and immersive moments of the evening – which I will not spoil for our readers! A chill runs through the room, and the sound of a cold mountainous wind rushes across the table.

Just, this is a great course. I am not spoiling it.

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After that palate refreshing sorbet, we prepare for the main course – though I must admit, I was already pretty full!

Paired with a red or white wine, our main takes place in China – though still a good course by all means, the past 4 courses raised the bar fairly high. Unfortunately, I think this might be the weaker course of the evening.

My duck with Bok choy and East Asian vegetables left me envying my friend’s seafood choice. The duck could have been warmer, and considering it is served with chopsticks, the rice could have been sticky, instead we found ourselves requesting spoons.

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But we finally enter our final course of the evening, by now finding it impossible to move. Our dessert is a wonderful combination of ingredients from previous courses into a crème brulee, served with a refreshing digestif: the Sgroppino mixes vodka and lemon ice cream, topped up with sparkling wine for a wonderfully lively end to the evening with its citrus sweetness.

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Cue us trying to think of a way to stand up after an absolutely massive meal.

Le Petit Chef is a fantastic evening, which finds a way to bring multiple cuisines together to one meal in a way most of us would normally be skeptical of. Its use of multimedia is a fun way to segue between courses, and its family friendly nature makes it an excellent evening for kids and families. Oh, and vegetarian options are available if informed in advance!

I encourage anyone to certainly pop down to TT Liquor for Le Petit Chef while it’s running, which, due to its success, has been extended to 31st August 2018! And prepare for a trip across the globe from the comfort of London.

 

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

Le Petit Chef @ T. T. Liquor

17b Kingsland Road,
London E2 8AA

http://dinnertimestory.com
Tickets are available on the website at 95 GBP.

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The Elephant’s Head, Hackney

Type of BarBar/Restaurant, Pub
Damage££
Ideal forFoodDateSmall Groups, SundaysAfter Work

 

It’s firmly back in place!
The Elephant’s Head has reclaimed it’s spot at 43 Lower Clapton! Which is exactly what we all needed after years of the venue changing hands.

The pub has itself ready for anything, a spot to spend the night with friends, a dim lit room to nurse a hangover, and not mention, a fantastic Sunday roast.

And they ain’t too shabby on the cocktail front! Classics with a few signatures, the bar knows what they do, and do it well.

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Before our late night roast makes its way in, we sit below the beautiful stained glass ceiling nursing an El Chapo and a Martinez.

The classic Martinez has gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur and Angostura bitters, but this classic is twisted slightly with a 2:1 gin:vermouth rather than the old 1:1. The result is a lighter, brighter, much more balanced and modern cocktail.

The El Chapo stands out tonight as the best of the bar’s signature cocktails: Ocho Tequila, agave syrup, lime, ginger syrup, a mezcal float with candied ginger garnish. The sweet agave of the tequila and light white pepperiness is followed up by citrus to end with a crackle of ginger. Simple, clean, wonderful.

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After a plate of wings, a classic Japanese Cocktail makes an appearance with cognac, orgeat, lemon juice and Angostura bitters – sweet with almond and orange flavours, with an undercurrent of ripe fruit and oaky vanilla from the cognac. Certainly for the sweet tooth.

The roast sirloin was perfectly medium rare, but what we were cheering on were those incredible infinite trimmings. Tenderstem broccoli with peppered sweet root vegetables, roast potatoes that though simple were entirely too addictive, and *that* cheesy cauliflower with that distinct honeyed sweetness.

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After a second helping of the methtatoes, the now unable to move Hoodooist and co. order Gin, and Tequila Old Fashioneds, respectively.

The Gin Old Fashioned gave us rosemary infused gin, maple syrup, and black walnut bitters – which is a promising recipe, but the maple could overpower the rosemary gin – although that’s easily sorted by asking for a little less maple syrup for a sweet and savoury digestif.

The Tequila Old Fashioned I wanted extra spicy, and extra spicy I got it: tequila, chilli, agave syrup, grapefruit bitters, for a brighter alternative to the Gin variant. The agave and the tequila give us the sweet and earthy, while the grapefruit and chilli go bright and effervescent. What an excellent combo.

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I’m glad the Elephant’s Head is back, and better than ever. With quality cocktails at a price you couldn’t frown at, the most dramatic WCs ever (no, seriously), and all the methtatoes with that excellent roast, the EH makes a great spot to spend a Sunday afternoon.

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

 

The Elephant’s Head

43 Lower Clapton Rd, Hackney
London E5 0NS, UK

https://www.elephanthackney.com/

London Cocktail Week ’17 Day 3: Soho & the City

Welcome one and all to London Cocktail Week 2017! Wield a pass on your smartphone DrinkUp London app and enjoy the discounts/events that LCW has to offer!

This year the Hoodooist will be bringing you #YourDailyDoseOfHoodoo, a multi-part review of each day of London Cocktail Week ’17, as well as daily coverage on our Instagram @highballhoodoo.

Today we look at 2 days out this LCW: Where the Hoodooist tackled Soho and the City!

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Let’s start with some of our regulars in Soho!

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The Propitious, by Jinjuu

Jinjuu Soho:

Once you find a way not accidentally bungle the name of the cocktail up thanks to be over-caffeinated because you passed Soho Grind twice already, Korean after-work hotspot Jinjuu Soho serves the Propitious: one of it’s two LCW17 offerings.

Chrysanthemum-infused Soju, Green Chartreuse, Green tea reduction, #Korean plum #wine, plum bitters, and prune dust makes for a velvety and powerfully perfumed cocktail.

We begin with notes of the Green Chartreuse, followed by the green tea, and then a sudden wave of the Chrysanthemum – strong and potent. A momentary respite with plum wine, but then the Chrysanthemum is back to dominate. I’m not quite to sure what to make of this drink. The first half is almost too difficult to drink, it ignores ‘floral’ and goes straight to ‘spraying perfume into your mouth because it’s been that kind of day’.

Later, the plum wine emerges a bit more, but a little too late.

The second option is the Kimchi Bloody Mary and Korean Fried Chicken, which we covered last year.

A short walk away, we’re down at MASH!

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Dr. Miroslav’s Cold Remedy, by MASH

Everyone knows the Hoodooist loves MASH.

The fab Miro and team at MASH give us Dr. Miroslav’s Cold Remedy, a mix of Tito’s Vodka, ginger syrup, peach puree, lemon juice, and a touch of manzanilla sherry.

What I quite loved about the Remedy was it managing to be simple, but effective – which was refreshing with so many the bars in Soho which were trying so hard to impress they were going all over the shop.

An opening hit of light ginger spice, peach saunters in, and then lingering hints of dry sherry. Served in a chilled copper glass that keeps the drink wonderfully cold. Just what we needed. And if that isn’t enough for you, knowing that a pound from each order of the Remedy is donated to Guide Dogs should be an incentive to definitely try this offer.
Puppies.
Puppies.

Make sure to try the snacks and starters while you’re here – beef tartare with crisps is always a great combo.

And a short walk away in Covent Garden we arrive at…

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The Martell Gourmand, by BOKI

Boki serves the Martell Gourmand: a Martell Cognac mini Sazerac with a glass of Martell VS Single Distillery Cognac, paired with pistachio ice cream and cardamom biscuit.

I’m not quite sure what Boki is trying to do: either as a venue or as drink. In any case, it seems the head bartenders decided to pre-bottle their Sazeracs (what?), and put a load of lemon juice in it. Why this was decided was beyond me.

Sazeracs are… not easy. The short and simple ingredient list is deceptive, but the key to it is practice until it is muscle memory. Our kind bartender, Daniel, responded to our feedback well and remade it without any lemon, giving us a half decent Sazerac (good job for a first try).

Cardamom biscuit and pistachio ice cream paired surprisingly well with measure of Martell, ending on a great pairing note.

Next, we put on our hiking boots and head down to Blackfriars to find…

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Big Trouble in Little Cynar, by COLD

The City of London Distillery is a good place to come down with friends to prepare your own gin in their in house gin lab and distillery.

And this LCW, they presented the Big Trouble on Little Cynar: City of London Square Mile Gin, Cynar artichoke liqueur, apricot brandy, lemon juice, and vanilla salt.

The first sip is a shock, the tartness might be a bit much, but it is easy to get used to. Apricot, followed by the savoury Cynar (one of my favourite ingredients), ending with more tart stone fruit flavours.

I highly recommend eating the provided bar snacks of chilli nuts, since this enhances the orange sweetness of the drink, and even accentuates the otherwise hidden vanilla.

Head down to Monument station, to find Mber!

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Mber is serving the Cloud Nine: Sipsmith London dry gin, yuzu liqueur, orange bitters, lemon juice topped with a white chocolate foam.

Alternatively, for an extra 9 quid, you can take a walk on the wild side and get the cocktail plus a series of exciting bites:
-Zebra Loin Tataki with kizami wasabi mousse, satay cured egg, roasted grapes, parmesan-nori popcorn, and teriyaki sauce
-Grilled kangaroo steak Tagalog with smoked aubergine & tahini, edamame hummus, moromi-miso chimichurri and grilled pita bread
-Pork Katsu kare with panko bread crumbs, glazed apples and fennel chutney

The cocktail is a great aperitif of lemon and orange tempered by the white chocolate foam, however I would have quite enjoyed the inclusion of cardamom in the cocktail as well, to help round off the citrus.

The bites are wonderful, particularly the pork kare, whose flavours complement one another without attempting to outdo each other (in contrast to the zebra loin, which felt a bit blurry).

I highly recommend stopping for the Petit Fours as well! Great selection.

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Alright! That’s our recap of Soho and the City of London Cocktail Week 2017!

All in all, I feel in comparison to the East London stars we covered in yesterday’s post, Soho and the City could have done better. However, kudos to MASH for preparing a drink that came in with a plan in mind, and lived up to it. Sometimes simplicity with a bit of kick is all one needs. Similar, with the Kimchi Bloody Mary by Jinjuu, which is far better than their Propitious Chrysanthemum cocktail.

I do hope it may have helped you one way or the other, dear readers, on our quest through the most magical week of the year.

We will be putting up summaries of some of the tastings and masterclasses we visited this week, and hope to see you this Saturday and Sunday at the Tequila and Mezcal Fest!

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London Cocktail Week ’17 Day 1&2: East London

Welcome one and all to the recap of the first two days of London Cocktail Week 2017! Wield a pass on your smartphone DrinkUp London app and enjoy the discounts/events that LCW has to offer!

This year the Hoodooist will be bringing you #YourDailyDoseOfHoodoo, a multi-part review of each day of London Cocktail Week ’17, as well as daily coverage on our Instagram @highballhoodoo.

Today we look at 2 days out this LCW: Where the Hoodooist tackled East London!
This is gonna be a long one, folks, strap yourselves in.

 

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Let’s see what’s happening in East London! Central maybe have been a bit hit and miss, but East is winning.

There’s a hell of a lot going on here, so we had to divide it into two separate articles, Part 1 gives us more of Old Street and a bit of Dalston:

After a coffee and cognac pairing with Courvoisier at Joyeux Bordel, we begin our cocktail journey at Black Rock!

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Talisker Remember the Maine, by Black Rock

The Talisker Remember the Maine is a twist on the classic with Talisker Whisky Distillers Edition Amoroso Cask Scotch, Bulleit Rye, home made spicy cherry liqueur and Cocchi Di Torino sweet vermouth, and a spray of absinthe on the side of the glass.

What a beautiful cocktail – the first spicy hit of rye makes way for the Talisker with it’s cream sherry barrel of fruit and light smoke, the wave of cherry and rich fruit, bitter orange peels and cocoa – ending once again on the Talisker cream sherry cask finish scotch.

As time passes, the drink becomes increasingly aromatic. Love.

Short walk away, we find ourselves at Scout!

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The Jerusalem Artichoke, by Scout

Now this was fascinating.

The Jerusalem Artichoke: Bombay Sapphire gin, Jerusalem Artichoke, Malt and coffee soda.

A complex long drink is always an interesting find. First, the coffee fizz, sudden and invigorating. Then, the malt, shamelessly mellowing the texture. This makes way for the nutty, powerfully earthy flavour of the Jerusalem Artichoke and a hint of gin – then returning to the malt and coffee.

Stunning work, adore.

Sadly, the Operation Dagger takeover downstairs didn’t start for a little longer, so I decided to return another time – until then, head up to Dalston for…

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This Spartan joint hands us the slightly NSFW and appropriately named Satyr: Sour plum infused vodka, verjus and soda; served with cured duck in a liquorice teriyaki sauce.

First thought: Red Haribo. Seemingly light at first, but deceptive. Heavy plum and bright effervescent fruit and citrus. The cured duck is a great fatty dish to temper the alcohol as we ended up staying for a session into the early hours.

We turn in for the night, preparing us for the next day in the Wild East, on…

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Day 2: Shoreditch

After a fab tasting at the Buffalo Trace Bourbon Empire at the Looking Glass Cocktail Club, we begin our afternoon at the Cocktail Trading Company!

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The Highest Incarnation of The Revolutionary Cognacship, by CTC

In keeping with their quirky serves, the CTC presents The Highest Incarnation of The Revolutionary Cognacship ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Hennessy VS cognac, sweetened rice milk and smoked lapsang tea, with a garnish of grated nutmeg. Feedback that the nutmeg was too overpowering was taken well. Once past that, the drink bursts into smoky lapsang on sides of the tongue, washed over with rice milk, nutty and oaky cognac. Very reminiscent of a light Brandy Alexander.

I don’t know if this was my favourite drink. It felt a bit watery, and the flavours were a tiny bit all over the place. But a brave drink nonetheless.

Further South on Wentworth St, one salted caramel hot chocolate later…

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White Heat, by 46 & Mercy

The White Heat by 46 & Mercy is a fascinating one.

Buffalo Trace Bourbon infused with white chocolate & white pepper, bitters and lemon oil results in a twist on an Old Fashioned with a powerful lemon nose. The first sip brings in the bourbon and sweet white chocolate, but do not worry, the sweetness is not overpowering. Next, the pepperiness comes in, white pepper spice hits the throat and coats the tongue, reviving you from the fear of too much chocolate. The finish is citrusy, and a lingering spice. Gorgeous.

A hop two streets to the West later, we end the evening with…

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Benandonner, by Discount Suit Co.

Discount Suit Co.! The Benandonner has Elements of Islay Whisky PEAT, Ruby Port, millionaire syrup and lemon.

The initial caramel sweetness lets in the Islay barbecue flavours. Here comes the ruby port, followed by Islay smoke and brine. Finally, lingering fruit and sugar, hints of cinnamon. A beautiful way to end and evening after a meal.

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Alright! That’s our recap of East London of London Cocktail Week 2017! I do hope it may have helped you one way or the other, dear readers, on our quest through the most magical week of the year.

See you tomorrow for coverage of LCW17 Part 2: Soho and the City!

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London Mezcal Week 2017!

A Celebration of Mezcal, Mexican Culture, Art & Food
11th – 17th September 2017
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Okay, so you *KNOW* this is gonna the best week for agavephiles, and a great excuse to get your friends who’re still scared of mezcal into the game.

Taking place from Monday 11th to Sunday 17th September across London, the first official London Mezcal Week will be a series of events in London that celebrate Mezcal, Mexican culture, art and food, ending with a two-day tasting festival and Mexico Independence Day celebration.

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Organised by two of London’s most exciting Mezcal enthusiasts, Thea Cumming and Melanie Symonds, the founders of Dangerous Don and Quiquiriqui Mezcals respectively, the series of events will be produced by Lucie Massey, who organises the sell-out pop-up series Slap Ya Papa. Together, the trio hope to provide a platform for all kinds of people to explore the culture of traditional Mezcal production, as well as taking a closer look at Mexican art, film and food.

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Throughout the week, a series of social events in venues across the city will champion the diverse creativity of Mexico as well as the magical story of the agave plant, from which Mezcal is made. From art exhibitions and panel discussions, to the creation of a Mexican mural, mezcal masterclasses and food pairings, each event will uncover
the fascinating world of Mezcal and its place in Mexican culture.

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The series of events are as follows:
Monday – A Mezcal Pairing Dinner with Edson Diaz-Fuentes, at his restaurant Santo Remedio

Tuesday – Mezcal sampler with Mezcal Master Jon Anders at Santo restaurant

Wednesday – Panel Discussion “The Future of Mezcal” and Blind Tasting at The Bloomsbury Club Bar
Wednesday – Coffee, Chocolate & Mezcal tasting at Wahaca, Charlotte Street

Thursday – Bartender’s Brunch at Café Pacifico
Thursday– El Grito! At Pop Brixton

Friday – Independence day party at Club Makossa

Saturday – Tasting Festival at Unit 5 Gallery & Yard
Sunday -Tasting Festival at Unit 5 Gallery & Yard

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The headline Mezcal festival, held over 2 days in Hackney, will feature the UK’s biggest ever Mezcal tasting, where ticket holders can taste over 50 mezcals from 30 brands and talk to many of the faces behind the brands.

Independent brands are given precedence at this festival, which will be focusing on traditionally made mezcals and the families behind them. A proportion of ticket sales will go towards charities working within the agave community. For those looking to make a day of it, there will also be an array of Mexican street food, a mezcal bar
serving cocktails, beers and more, and a programme of art, DJS and live music over the weekend event. Some of London’s best Mexican restaurants will be involved including Bad Sports, Santo Remedio and Temper.

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So what are you waiting for? Book those tickets and remember to leave the salt and lime at the door. This is a sipping zone.

https://www.londonmezcalweek.com

Number 90 Bar & Kitchen’s Bank Holiday Weekender

Heads up to the next Bank Holiday Weekend party on your list!

One of Hackney’s most popular canal-side venues, Number 90 Bar & Kitchen, is throwing an incredible four day long  bank holiday summer festival, taking place from 25th-28th August, complete with live art exhibitions & music, record  stalls, extraordinary performances, delicious food and drink offers, and much more.

Kicking off on Friday 25th August, the first day of festivities begins with a friends, family and press launch, featuring a  great range of entertainment to get the party started. Along with an art exhibition, which will include live painting, Rough Trade will be providing the ultimate Friday night soundtrack until early hours of the morning, giving a perfect taster of what’s to come in the following days.

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On the Saturday partygoers can firstly refuel with Number 90’s brand new weekend bottomless Prosecco brunch, which offers a selection of breakfast favourites from Eggs Benedict with Bacon, to Smashed Avocado on Sourdough with Chilli, alongside two hours of refreshing Prosecco refills. Once rejuvenated, music lovers can rejoice for hours of
entertainment; DJ Mohson Stars will provide the afternoon soundtrack, whilst the ‘House Clearance House Party’ will deliver a fun-filled disco house vibe whereby guests can take home the DJ’s vinyl collection as they play it.

Koncept Music will be situated outside with their eclectic record stall for guests to browse through, whilst the glitter station will be on hand to add the perfect Ibiza inspired sparkle for the evening of festivities. Number 90 favourites, Half Baked, will be bringing hot talent Raresh for a late night ticketed event from 11pm to 6am, providing an upbeat soundtrack of house and techno until the early hours.

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On the Sunday, guests are invited to relax on the sun-drenched terrace and replenish with one of Number 90’s mouthwatering roast dinners, offering everything from slow roasted aged Derbyshire topside beef for meat lovers, to homemade beetroot, mushroom and spinach wellington for veggies. Sunday is also National Burger Day and it won’t go a miss at Number 90, with an exclusive burger to be served on the day, alongside an array of additional options including fresh and flavoursome vegan salads.

Sunday evening festivities will kick off with live music from the likes of The Knox and Callum Chynoweth, with Phonica Records taking the late night reins until the early hours of the morning, and free entry until 4am. True to any great party, there will be a giant treat-filled piñata competition for guests to compete in, and even unicorn disguised
entertainers playing interactive games with revellers. Throughout the weekend cocktail lovers can indulge in a range of refreshing concoctions, which have all been given a Number 90 twist, such as the ‘Garden Spritz’, which comprises a summery mix of strawberry, cucumber, Boxer gin, soda and Prosecco.

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With the celebrations winding down on the Monday, Number 90 will be offering 2 for 1 on Bloody Marys for all those in need of a ‘hair of the dog’ refreshment, and Jamie King and Folkies will provide relaxing background music for a lazy day of recuperation.

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Number 90 Bar & Kitchen prides itself on being a key figure in the Hackney Wick community, throwing some of the best parties in East London and continuously working alongside its neighbours to implement the all-inclusive ethos that it’s celebrated for. This summer festival will invite brand affiliates, friends and locals to come together and enjoy this four daylong summertime weekender, in a venue that is renowned for its fun-loving nature.

 

Number 90 Bar & Kitchen’s Bank Holiday Weekender
Friday 25th August – Monday 28th August
Friday: 7pm-1am, Saturday: midday-6am, Sunday: midday-4am, Monday: midday – 11.30pm

90 Main Yard, Wallis Road
HACKNEY WICK
E9 5LN London

http://number90bar.co.uk/bookings/

Aqua Nueva & Spirit, Oxford Circus

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Spanish, Japanese
Damage££££
Ideal for: FoodDate, Small Groups, After Work

 

As crowded as Argyll Street is, it is easy to miss some of the signs around you – including the doorway that leads up to the 5th floor, where three of Aqua’s dining experiences are hidden away.

The opulently decorated Aqua series begins with the shimmering mirrored surfaces of the Aqua Spirit bar, before opening up to the Nueva restaurant, heralded by the charging Pamplona bull – an awful lot of spectacle, so the Hoodooist was curious to see if there was substance behind the glitz.

 

Aqua Kyoto Nueva London cocktails

The Smoke Over Spain

 

Once seated at our table, looking out the balcony to the Central London skyline, and over the bar of Nueva, we are served with the London Cocktail Week offering of the Smoke Over Spain.

I’m already sold with this. Tanqueray gin, orgeat, sherry, wild strawberry liqueur, fresh lemon juice and served with a paprika foam, a gorgeous balancing act of sweet without being sickly, citrus without being overpowering, and smoky for a burst of flavour. You begin with the smoky paprika foam that teases the tastebuds before a wash of fruit and nutty sweetness of the orgeat, giving way to the powerful strawberry flavour that dominates the drink, leading to a dry finish from the sherry.

This is a cocktail you will remember, even for the Hoodooist who notoriously avoids sweet or fruit dominated cocktails. I do wish this will find its way onto the cocktail menu year round, to firmly place Aqua on the map for cocktail ingenuity.

We enjoy snacks of Manzanilla olives, chickpea croquettes, and Iberian meats before being served padron peppers fried with olive oil and dusted with sea salt that the Hoodooist absolutely adores. The addition of sea salt does stand out from many servings of padron peppers, and the Hoodooist doubts he can have it any other way now! A pile of green pepper heads on his plate, we are served another cocktail.

 

 

Aqua Spirit Kyoto Nueva London cocktails

Salmon and avocado maki with salmon ‘pearls’

 

Aqua Spirit‘s offering of the Japanese Citrus initially does not go down well – until it dilutes. Then we find a wonderfully refreshing drink. The melting ice dilutes the pungency of the powerful yuzu sake, which is mixed with Ketel One vodka, fresh lemon juice, ginger syrup, Angostura bitters and topped with soda water. Once you’ve waited a few minutes, the yuzu citrus provides a wonderful backdrop for the ginger to sizzle.

This was paired with salmon and avocado maki, topped with salmon roe. Clearly freshly cut and succulent salmon made this sushi worth travelling for, exciting seasoned residents of Japan at our table. Soon, chicken wings stuffed with coriander and miso are served, as well as crisp prawn tempura with garlic chilli sauce.

 

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Finally, melt-in-your-mouth oxtail topped with avocado creme is paired with a glass of champagne, before the finale of a shot of Espresso Martini as a digestif to polish off a wonderful evening.

Staff at the Aqua Nueva & Spirit are faultless: polite, swift, and conversational. I do prize service above everything else at a bar, and the Aqua series certainly score here.

 

Overall, the glitz is not just for show. Cocktails are engineered to be paired with food, so do not attempt to be enormously complex or demanding – but when they do, we find stars like the Smoke Over Spain. The Japanese Citrus is also a great example at how cocktails meant to be paired can be enjoyable even on their own.The atmosphere is perfect for a celebratory dinner, after work drink on the balcony, and particularly for meetings. You can’t go wrong for why you’re here, really.

Sure, it’s a steep price, which is expected – but all things considered, the Aqua Nueva and Spirit are venues a visit to London should not do without.

 

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

 

Aqua Nueva & Spirit,

240 Regent St, Oxford Circus
London W1B 3BR

http://aquakyoto.co.uk/
http://aquanueva.co.uk/