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/

The Spirit of Sharing Tasting, @ The Embassy of Ireland

Some of you might still be reeling from the craziness of this year’s St. Paddy’s Day (ouch Sun Tavern, ouch Whisky Live), but whether or not you’re still wearing (feeling) green (or still pretending to be Irish), this year’s explosion of Irish whiskeys and poitins onto the London cocktail scene is making some of the Scots lowkey panic.

As for the English whisky distilleries..Well. Um.

Anyway.

We now enter the ballroom of the Irish Embassy, South Ken, where the Bord Bia Irish food board and brought in some of the biggest, and growing, names in Irish spirits to taste, in the company of award winning drinks writer Dominic Roskrow, and Charlie McCarthy of Tullamore Dew and All About the Cocktail fame!

Ireland Irish London Spirit of Sharing Stout Cocktails Whiskey Poitin

Let’s have a stroll and look at some of the outstanding spirits we have on show today!

Before the whiskey classics, let’s get on to whiskey’s ancient ancestor and fairly recent and exciting on the London scene – the potent Poitin has been released after its four century long ban from 1997.

Ireland Irish London Spirit of Sharing Stout Cocktails Whiskey Poitin

Bán Poitín!

Introduced in 2013, Bán Poitín by Dave Mulligan and Cara Humphreys has dominated the UK Poitin market, and are staples at The Sun Tavern, and Discount Suit Co. An industry darling, and rightfully so: the sugarbeet and barley spirit is strongly malty, slightly sweet, and goes down wonderfully with a stout.

Ireland Irish London Spirit of Sharing Stout Cocktails Whiskey Poitin

The Glendalough Sherry Cask Poitin – Picture courtesy of: http://www.glendaloughdistillery.com

Stored in virgin Irish Oak, the Glendalough Poitin range provides variety.

The standard Glendalough Poitin comes with a similar bread palate, with pepper and oak, with a subtle creaminess. The (wonderful!) Sherry Cask Finished Poitin has a beautiful nose of orange and spicy sweetness, a toasty palate of fruit and spice, and long sherry finish. Finally, the Mountain Strength is bold with barley, fruit and oak. Spectacular stuff.

Ireland Irish London Spirit of Sharing Stout Cocktails Whiskey Poitin

Bertha’s Revenge! Picture courtesy of: http://ballyvolanespirits.ie/

How about something a little different? We’re seeing a lot of gin from Ireland, and one of the more intriguing ones is Bertha’s Revenge, a milk gin by Ballyvolane House. A beautifully creamy mouthfeel on sweet almond and spicy cardamom and cloves, followed by a lip-smackingly dry citrus finish. It’s been a while since gin got the Hoodooist’s attention – and Bertha certainly did.

Ireland Irish London Spirit of Sharing Stout Cocktails Whiskey Poitin

Kerrygold Irish Cream! Picture courtesy of: http://kerrygoldirishcream.com/

Let’s look at the lighter stuff: We can’t do Ireland without Irish Cream, and classic Kerrygold doesn’t overwhelm you with sweetness compared to many.

Ireland Irish London Spirit of Sharing Stout Cocktails Whiskey Poitin

The fun Flaming Pig!

And the gloves were off with the liqueurs. The Flaming Pig spiced whiskey liqueur is melded with cinnamon, black pepper and cloves, ready for a ludicrously silly drinking game. Initial sweet whiskey flavours are immediately followed by powerful spice to set you off.

Ireland Irish London Spirit of Sharing Stout Cocktails Whiskey Poitin

Highbank Irish Orchard Liqueur Brandey – Picture Courtesy of: https://highbankorchards.com/

Made from organic apples, the Highbank Orchard Liqueur Brandey is fantastic after lunch on the riverside, filled with bright apple, ginger and cinnamon flavours.

Ireland Irish London Spirit of Sharing Stout Cocktails Whiskey Poitin

Clever Man’s Ejector Seat Turf Smoked Stout

The stouts came out to play: Clever Man’s Ejector Seat Turf Smoked Stout certainly changed the Hoodooist’s mind about the drink, jet black, with peaty nose. A powerfully smoked palate, coffee, and light notes of TCP, with a dry bittersweet finish – this is an Islay Whisky as a stout. Love.

And there is the White Hag’s Black Boar Stout, rich, bitter – the nose is peaty. The palate is malty and smoky, with vanilla, chocolate, treacle and oak thrown in, with a bit of bite. Nom.

 

I guess we’re on to what everyone’s waiting for! The Whiskeys are classics, good old Jameson, Teeling, and the Liberties.

Ireland Irish London Spirit of Sharing Stout Cocktails Whiskey Poitin

The Jameson Range!

The Jameson family is all out tonight!

We all know the sweet, Madeira and marmalade flavours of the Jameson Irish Whiskey classic. The Crested 10 is a potent mix of grain, pot still, and sherry casks: full and rich, smooth and light before swelling into spice, red fruit and chocolate, over a toasted sherry notes. The Select Reserve Black Barrel aka Small Batch, focuses more on grain and pot still, with double charred barrels. Creamy, and thick. Warm winter flavours of dates, overripe fruit, cinnamon and orange zest are followed by a lengthy finish of nutmeg and cinnamon. The most recent addition, the Caskmates, is given a stout finish – the fruits and chocolate of Jameson is now coupled with hoppy maltiness for a fabulous modern whiskey.

Probably the star of the family, the award-winning Redbreast 12 is rich and nutty, with marzipan and almond – a long sherried finish is spicy and sweet. A gorgeous whiskey worth shelling out on.

Ireland Irish London Spirit of Sharing Stout Cocktails Whiskey Poitin

The blurry Teeling Trio

Of course Teeling is here!

We know the Single Malt: Light, peppery, cinnamon – peppered with floral notes. The Single Grain is more adventurous: Be ready for cereal flavours with spice and treacle, custard plays around here too. A spry spirit, that. Finally, the gorgeous Small Batch: rich with floral notes, spiced with cinnamon and other herbs, a creamy creme brulee at the end. Wonderful and flamboyant.

Ireland Irish London Spirit of Sharing Stout Cocktails Whiskey Poitin

The Dublin Liberties Oak Devil – Picture courtesy of: http://www.marblehead.uk.com/

They say an oak-carved devil stood over the gates of a place nicknamed Hell in the Liberties of Dublin. They also say that oak was soon used for whiskey barrels – explaining the name of The Dublin Liberties‘s whiskey: Oak Devil. Expect a lot of caramel, spice and pepper, followed by warm winter notes of Christmas. Love this little tipple.

Ireland Irish London Spirit of Sharing Stout Cocktails Whiskey Poitin

Charlie McCarthy’s customised cocktail

Let’s end the night with Charlie McCarthy’s gorgeous customised cocktail! A mix of Tullamore Dew whiskey, PX sherry, chilli tincture and whiskey barrel aged bitters: a sweet, deep, spicy and rich concoction made the perfect nightcap.

Night, all – and dream of what Ireland has to offer us in the coming year!

Native, Seven Dials

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant
Damage££
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups, Food, Foraged Food, Game

 

From street food stalls, to pop-ups and supper clubs, Native has finally made it. Tucked away in a corner of Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden, this seemingly unassuming restaurant has caused quite a stir within its first month of opening.

River Cottage trained Ivan Tisdall-Downes, and Wimbledon Tournament falconer Imogen Davis, spearheaded this production as food and front of house along with head chef Jack Botha. Native is taming the wild by focusing their menu entirely on game and arranged ingredients-sustainability is key, even receipts are emailed to customers. Whisky is organic and cocktail ingredients are foraged and home-made. Familiar simplicity meets contemporary innovation here at Native.

This former bread shop is pretty cosy, seating eight upstairs and about 20 below. A minimalist design might seem a bit stark at first but soon you realise how it complements a smaller space, and focuses attention on various other senses. The scent of lilies wafts through the venue when you first enter and is immediately followed by the fragrant herbs and sizzling meat from the open plan kitchen.

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Highland Harvest 7 Casks

Said kitchen is overlooked by the chefs table, a counter that opens directly to the kitchen where one can interact with the staff as they work (if you’re lucky enough to book one of those four seats, I imagine reservations are already filling up pretty quickly). A fantastic spot to observe everyone’s meals as they’re plated, as you decide which you’d rather go for. And the occasional treat from the chefs is always welcome-not to mention the very Instagramable lighting!

Hell, all the food here is Instragram ready.

Like the cuisine, the cocktails and their flavours revolve entirely around seasonality. The cosy venue does mean however, that the cocktail list must be kept short and simple. Very short in this case, two cocktails long, with a choice of eight wines and two beers.

Awaiting our first course, we begin with an Elderflower Bellini, and a Sloe Gun.

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The Elderflower Bellini

The home-made elderflower syrup for the Bellini was, of course, prepared with foraged elderflower-the final cocktail being sweet with a delicate floral flavour, but also with a surprisingly spicy kick. I highly suggest this as a fun twist on the Bellini, and as the less sweet of the two cocktails.

The Sloe Gun, prepared with East London Dry Gin, sloeberry syrup and Prosecco, is quite on the sweet side, with a long lingering fruit flavour. Personally, I felt the long finish tended to interfere with the beautiful starters-but it does not take away from being a decent drink in itself.

Quizzing Jack and Ivan about future cocktail ideas (and hopefully something a bit drier) the subject of an Apple and Sage Old Fashioned came up – which the Hoodooist personally hopes will be smoked with Applewood (fingers crossed!). Native could probably entertain the ideas of bottled cocktails as they have become increasingly popular in London.

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The first order to roll in, the Wood Pigeon, on beet hummus, pickled cabbage, and pitta bread with Harissa. The rich, sweet flesh of the wood pigeon contrasted beautifully against the beet hummus and cabbage; all the while managing to remain a bright and lively dish. Although the Hoodooist doubts it could compete with the Palourde clams in hot smoked pork belly broth with wild garlic. Like the previous starter, it manages to remain quite light regardless of how rich and flavourful the broth is. Hearty, homey, and well suited to the environment.

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A glass of red Sicilian Nero d’Avola accompanies the Venison haunch steak, topped with crispy onions and Salsa Verde, on a bed of cauliflower purée. Halfway through this main we realised we were getting rather full, but there was no way we could not finish this gorgeous medium rare hunk of venison. The deep, gutsy steak is brought alive by the occasional bright sparks of flavour from the Salsa Verde, their texture is contrasting with the crispiness of the onion.

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And there was no way we were leaving without dessert. Rhubarb and rosemary on meadowsweet cream scattered with coriander honeycomb. Just gorgeous. The fragrance is incredible, the meadowsweet in the cream almost like vanilla. The rosemary provides a very subtle contrast of the rhubarb, and the coriander seed is similarly subtle, but effective. Saving a piece of honeycomb for each bite, you start to notice the cream being sustained around the edges of the honeycomb as it melts into its surroundings.

Lincolnshire Poacher, with rhubarb chilli pickled pear on English quinoa crispbread is a more savoury alternative, paired alongside a dram of Highland Harvest Seven Casks scotch – an organic single malt with distinct fruit notes and creaminess, surprisingly smooth, with bit of a bite.

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Service at Native is impeccable – incredibly swift, and being seated at the counter allows you to have chat with the staff as the show keeps an eye at your pace, so nothing comes either too quickly or too late. Ivan and Jack managed to keep their cool in the kitchen at the busiest of times and amazingly still make time for customers seated at the counter, and Imogen is wonderfully conversational as front of house, keeping the show running smoothly.

 

The fact is, Native is exciting. Its focus on sustainability and foraging, means that menus can sometimes be unpredictable, and feel improvised almost – in the best of ways. The rustic decor extends to the feel of the food even though they are presented so beautifully – and prepared with incredible precision and skill behind the kitchen counter. The Hoodooist has to admit that Native comes as a refreshing change and massive improvement on what has otherwise been a fairly dull year in the food industry so far.

One can only hope that more restaurants will recognise the importance of skill and imagination over pomposity. Consider me a fan of Native, and fight me for the counter seat.

 

Drinks: *** (Good quality, would like to see little more variety)
Food: ****-*****
Atmosphere: ****
Service: *****
Native

3 Neal’s Yard, Seven Dials,
London, WC2H 9DP

http://www.eatnative.co.uk

Ropewalk by Disappearing Dining Club, Bermondsey

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

 

Walking down Ropewalk off Maltby Street in the evening is a quiet walk, indeed. But, a little way down large colourful lights spelling out ‘Aloha’ beckon you into the strange and wonderful world that is the Ropewalk by Disappearing Dining Club.

Their second permanent venue in London, Disappearing Dining Club has opened a Victorian styled cocktail bar inside the LASSCO reclaimed furniture warehouse. The architectural salvage warehouse now houses not only a bar but a private dining room ready for booking from Thursday to Sunday. Dim lighting and candle flames illuminate little spaces in the darkness in the Barge Bar, with the barback from a reclaimed Victorian pub.

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The Barge Bar

The salvaged decor makes the venue a veritable treasure trove, and a wonderland for antique geeks. And the romantic bar space is accompanied by a similarly seductive cocktail menu.

A short menu of seven drinks, with well chosen, specialised spirits, does tip slightly to the sweet side on all the tasted cocktails, but manage to stay well-balanced.

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The Serpentine

Beginning with the Serpentine: Cognac, Szechuan pepper, sugar, bitters, Prosecco with a grapefruit twist. Expect an initial flourish of the cognac dry fruit, followed by a drier bite of the Prosecco fresh fruit – followed by a slight numbing from the Szechuan pepper, a strange sensation indeed. Overall, the drink is quite balanced, and makes for a good aperitif – however, the Hoodooist believes there are better options on the menu.

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The Coromandel

Ah, now this one stands out. The Coromandel brings us Suze, Soju, Chrysanthemum flower, lemon, and Prosecco. A much lighter drink, for sure, this cocktail is also more complex, and has much more going on. A light floral nose from the chrysanthemum garnish, and a palate that begins with a short punch from the Prosecco but quickly replaced by the spicy quinine kick from the Suze. The Suze mingles well with the distant stone fruit of the Soju, and of course – the bright flavours of the chrysanthemum, which dominates the finish.

I do encourage readers to try this cocktail, simply to enjoy the parade of flavours it provides the drinker.

The next two cocktails are certainly more suitable as digestifs – and both are a nod to Eastern flavours.

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The Ottoman

The Ottoman mixes Rum, pomegranate shrub, yoghurt, egg white with a dusting of sumac and garnish of pomegranate seeds. A mix of sweet and tart, the yoghurt is much more similar to labneh, with its distinctive saltiness; and the sumac adds a beautiful pop of colour and tartness to the drink. The rum plays a much smaller part than the pomegranate shrub which enjoys contributing its red sweetness to the cocktail. Definitely recommended as a sweet option for drinkers without a sweet tooth, or for fans of Lassi.

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The Chandan Box

Now, the Chandan Box (from the Hindi word for sandalwood), brings us Rye whiskey, Oloroso sherry, Antica Formula sweet vermouth, and a rim of sugared pure sandalwood. What a beautiful nose on this cocktail, the woody spice is absolutely gorgeous. The sharp rye bite is toned down by the complex mixture of dry fruit and orange from the vermouth, which immediately moves in to the powerful sherry flavours. It soon returns to a finish of sweet sandalwood and the Antica Formula vermouth.

Unfortunately, the Carpenter’s Cup is not as promising as the previous cocktails: Jensen’s Old Tom Gin, Punt e Mes, birch extract, tonic, cucumber, and mint provides a long, fairly tasteless, sour drink that one would avoid, particularly when the other options are so much more rewarding.

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The Eisenhower Room

Now, when it comes to dining, the Eisenhower Room, built using wooden panels from old US Naval HQ in Grovesnor Square, from which President Eisenhower Private dining is available throughout the week, as are DDC-made snacks from the bar. Dining menus change with the season and are exactly what you’d expect from DDC; simple, elegant and full of flavour. On Saturday and Sunday daytimes you can bring food in from Maltby Street market. A meal will need booking in advance as the venue does not have a kitchen.

Bar snacks of curried crab on Guinness bread, or beef carpaccio wrapped around green bean and truffle salad were beautifully done, as was the first course smorgasbord of Brick Lane smoked salmon with dill pickle cucumber, simple but flavourful. Also on the smorgasbord was the powerfully flavoured beetroot cured salmon, served with lemon crème fraiche and dill. The potted duck with orange and black pepper, though gamey and rich, could not compete with its neighbours on the board.

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One then wishes the main course kept the standard of the canapés and smorgasbord. Slow roasted pork belly, though cooked wonderfully, lacked a bit in flavour, but was accompanied by much more demanding pickled kale (the only way you can get the Hoodooist to enjoy kale) and salsa verde. The potato accompaniment, though, was rather watery. Nonetheless, the wine pairings were appropriate, a Sicilian Cataratto and a French Grenache/Carignan, both quite acidic, but the Hoodooist does enjoy his Sicilian.

Dessert, like the rest of the meal, was simple with fun twists: ‘eggy bread’, thick and rich, topped with spiced raspberry compote. Gorgeous. Went in for a second after!

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Conclusion? Come here for the cocktails, definitely. Complex with innovative flavours, balanced with a bit of sweetness, Ropewalk by Disappearing Dining Club is a great new cocktail destination to add to Bermondsey’s growing bar scene.

 

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

 

Ropewalk by Disappearing Dining Club

41 Maltby Street, Bermondsey,
London SE1 3PA

http://disappearingdiningclub.co.uk/

Burn’s Night with Highland Park @ Rules, Covent Garden

The Hoodooist has come to realise that no matter how much haggis he’s eaten, or whisky he’s drunk this past week, he can always go for some more.

 

So making my way down to London’s oldest restaurant for a Burn’s Supper among stars of the drinks industry was an invitation I was hardly going to turn down.

Swathed in red and bordered in hardwood, the Rules surrounds stretch three floors from restaurant, to upper bar, then private dining. After a warm introduction by restaurant director Ricky McMenemy, and drinks by bar manager Mike Cook (do not worry, a bar review of the Rules cocktail bar will be on soon! Especially with their updated modern menu with Cook at the helm), guests of the private dining room were given a quick look at the restaurant’s 200 year history – and what makes it not just a dining space, but an institution in the hospitality industry.

Has it got the feel of a pre-World War II political cartoon? Perhaps – but we have seen a sudden diversification in the clientele of Rules, with good reason. Subtle evolution with closely held regard of tradition make this restaurant a destination, and unique enough to hold it’s weight among the burgeoning use of mason jars and plank-for-plates in London’s food industry.

Highland Park Rules London Burns Night

Dinner begins with an addressing of the haggis, neeps, tatties, bagpipes and all, along with a dram of the Highland Park Dark Origins expression.

The perfectly spiced pudding defies the misconception that Rules is a one-trick pony with only the doughiest of English dishes. There is no surprise everyone from Betjemen to Dickens has frequented this spot. Anyone who can make the Hoodooist genuinely *enjoy* mashed potatoes is a star for all I care.

Now the Dark Origins harks to the Highland Park founder’s, Magnus Eunson, double life as beadle by day, and smuggler by night. With humorous tales – perhaps true, perhaps myth for such a character – such as masking his smuggled whisky treasures under a coffin at home in case of a raid, the expression’s palate evokes that contradiction.

A deep mahogany bronze, the dram’s nose is distinctly one of a sherried whisky (being aged in double as many sherry casks as their 12 year), with powerful roasted, dark fruit, coffee, and spice with a hint of smoke.
The palate begins with the peat we expect from a Highland Park – which slowly evolves into much sweeter flavours of cocoa, powerful spice, dried fruits and bright citrus. A long finish of smoke, and a bit of a burn – but not an unpleasant one.

Highland Park Rules London Burns Night

The main course begins with roast loin of venison on a bed of crushed celeriac, with roasted root vegetables, spiced red cabbage and a chocolate jus – just the meal that winter evenings are for.

The star on the table at the moment, though, was the golden dram of the Highland Park 18 year. This multi-award winning whisky is a star of Highland Park design – a nutty, floral aroma is quickly followed by something honeyed and almost sickly sweet.
The palate chewy and creamy, and there is that tell-tale coffee and soft, light peat. Rich with toffee and honey, the 18 year  is excruciatingly smooth, bursting with fruit and sweet smoothness. A round, long, sweet almost herbal finish to this gorgeous whisky.

Highland Park Rules London Burns Night

Can we please establish how beautifully complex and utterly gorgeous this dessert is?

Managing to be a both rich and light, a toasted oat mille-feuille with lemon, whisky, and Highland Park jelly and caramel sauce brings in sweet, sour, and smoky to the table with incredible crunch.

And finally to wash it down, the superb Highland Park Orcadian Series 1970!

Highland Park Rules London Burns Night

The Orcadian Series Vintage 1970

It is with a lot of pride that Highland Park Brand Ambassador, Mike MacKenzie, introduces this expression.

With only 1,800 bottles of this expression out there, you want to grab a taste of the Orcadian 1970 if you see it. The dark gold dram provides a sweet pineapple and honey nose – the palate is powerfully spicy, ginger, and bright sour citrus – with light vanilla notes, and at heart that powerful peat salinity and sea air. A spicy-sweet finish that goes on forever.
The more bizarre nature of this expression is its initially drying texture, until a few seconds later it does the exact opposite. Incredible.

Highland Park Rules London Burns Night

Suddenly, a pewter silver quaiche appears. An unnamed Burn’s Night cocktail containing the Highland Park Dark Origins, Amaro Montenegro, Branca Menta and orange zest is raised for a toast to our hosts – and it sums up the evening wonderfully.

The nose is light, and the mint on the nose is in fact stronger than in the cocktail (hallelujah! Such a difficult flavour, mint). A very confident, well-balanced and subtle drink. Beginning with the Dark Origins’ dark fruit and spice, the Amaro’s vanilla enters the scene, ending with a finish of orange zest and a very distant, light hint of mint. Beautiful, impressive. I hope this makes an appearance on the Rules Bar‘s permanent menu.

Highland Park Rules London Burns Night

The Highland Park 16 year

Finally, we end with something you won’t find in the shops. The Highland Park 16 year was made particularly for the duty free and travel market – and meant to be much more accessible, with milder smoke and honey that we associate with Highland Park.

The light gold dram possesses a citrus and toffee note, the palate toning down the aforementioned honey, florals and peat to an entrance level whisky. Some heather, green tea, and orange – very Speyside – more of that smoke and tea for the finish.

Highland Park Rules London Burns Night

The Norse Gods Collection

Talk about a memorable Burn’s Night! Time flew past, swift with whisky and heavy with a Burn’s Supper. The Rules team from Ricky McMenemy to Mike Cook are fabulous hosts, their food and cocktails just as spectacular, and Highland Park with Ambassador Mike Mackenzie never fail to impress.

For the perfect transition from winter to spring, Highland Park is an excellent dram for the smoke and spice for winter, and honeyed florals for the promise of spring.

Slàinte mhath!

Yelp and Covent Garden’s First London Mulled Wine Festival!

Winter is coming!

We all know what that means – mulled wine! And mulled cider. And mulled mead. Anything you can mull, really – all at London’s first Mulled Wine Festival!

Yelp Covent Garden Mulled Wine Festival

The celebrated Christmas staple will have a whole festival devoted to it at Covent Garden’s East Piazza from the 12th-14th of November – and the best part? Entry is free! If you check in with your Yelp! app, which you can download here:

Apple: app.adjust.com/ry1gff

Android: app.adjust.com/d3r3q7

So for three days, from noon to 9PM, “there will be three days of mulled wine from some of the best spots for mulled wine in the city. Plus mulled cider! And mulled mead! And mulled ice cream, mulled pops, mulled candy, mulled jelly shots and, of course, Christmas pies! (And also, some seriously amazing other eats).

It starts on November 12, the same night as Covent Garden switches on its new Christmas lights.  Designed by celebrated fashion and film production designer, Michael Howells, the new scheme takes inspiration from the mythology of mistletoe and Covent Garden’s world-renowned reputation as a special place to meet friends, family and loved ones. The iconic, 22 feet tall silver reindeer will also be returning to the East Piazza, ensuring this year’s switch on moment will once again have a stunning backdrop.

Contemporary acapella group After Party will be entertaining the crowds with an exclusive set from 6pm, which features everything from Taylor Swift to Christmas classics. And, whatever the weather, you’re guaranteed a white Christmas in Covent Garden as it will snow on switch on night to add that extra touch of magic.”

Yelp Covent Garden Mulled Wine Festival

Besides all the excellent entertainment, prepare for a massive foodie feast by:

* Battersea Pie (yelp.co.uk/biz/battersea…)

* Chez Antoinette (yelp.co.uk/biz/chez-anto…)

* Gordon Ramsay’s Heddon Street Kitchen (yelp.co.uk/biz/heddon-st…)

* Gosnell’s Mead (gosnells.co.uk)

* L’atypique Organic Wines (latypiquewines.com)

* LIC Pops (havealic.com)

* MEATMarket (yelp.co.uk/biz/meatmarke…)

* Morelli’s Gelato (yelp.co.uk/biz/morellis-…)

* Phizz (phizz.co)

* Smith and Sinclair (smithandsinclair.co.uk)

* Thistly Cross Cider (thistlycrosscider.co.uk)

* popchips (popchips.co.uk)

and more!

Plus, the whole event supports Connection at St-Martin-in-the-Field (connection-at-stmartins.…), a charity that helps support homeless people in multiple ways. So you’ll be drinking for a good cause!

 

Entrance is free if you RSVP at the link below and check in on your Yelp App!
http://www.yelp.co.uk/events/london-yelp-and-covent-gardens-first-london-mulled-wine-festival

See you guys there!

Yelp Covent Garden Mulled Wine Festival

 

Barrio Central, Soho

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Mexican
Damage: ££
Ideal for: Food, Small Groups, Large Groups, Party

Soho classic Barrio Central is back! After being shut for renovation, the Poland Street hangout has reopened its door with a few new menu surprises!

Redecorated, the blue-green venue speckled with bright contrasting tiles is still serving Mexican Gulf inspired cocktails and bites, with a few twists here and there. Of course, downstairs is still a drinks-focused late night party hang out versus the dinner tables upstairs.

Barrio Central Soho Cocktail Bar London

Let’s get right to it! Over the Al Pastor tacos: Achiote marinated pork, cooked on the spit with slow roasted pineapple, white onions & coriander, with a spicy drizzling El Yucateco habanero sauce – a succulent, deeply flavourful bite with the sweet citrus of pineapple cutting right through – the Hoodooist and co. order a Wonky Donkey and Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

Barrio Central Soho Cocktail Bar London

L-R: Wonky Donkey, Ol’ Dirty Bastard

The Ol’ Dirty Bastard is a firm favourite here: Santa Teresa rum, Four Roses bourbon and orange – a host of fruit from the rum quickly gives way to the orange and honeyed notes of the bourbon, ending with a zesty length of orange peel. A fun, lively twist on an Old Fashioned.

The Wonky Donkey leaves quite a bit to be desired, though. Casco Viejo tequila, elderflower, ginger and lime lengthened with soda leaves a rather flat drink at the end. The tequila goes missing (I even forgot what spirit was in the drink), and all you have left is something vaguely sweet and citrusy.

Barrio Central Soho Cocktail Bar London

Soon after, the Ceviche Mixto provides a fresh mix of seafood in tiger’s milk, with avocado, crispy sweet potato & serrano chili – a fantastic, lighter seafood dish after the heavier Al Pastor and smoky Lamb Chilli tacos.

Alongside, the new cocktails, (COMING SOON!) arrive – new designs by bartender Sophie Mackay, her newly designed cocktails have a more modern swing to them.

Barrio Central Soho Cocktail Bar London

The Bossa Beleza brings in the fizz! Abelha Cachaca, jasmine, ginger, mint, topped up with prosecco – the sweet cachaca and the prosecco dominate this drink, with the jasmine trailing as a faint, lingering finish. Better than that though, while on the South American track, is the Cuba Lima: Pisco ABA, peach, lemon, egg white. A classic tart Pisco Sour with a peachy twist. A fun, reliable drink, with fresh egg white. Always a reliable classic.

Barrio Central Soho Cocktail Bar London
The Cactus and Three Cheese Melt Quesadilla come in, cool and fabulously textured. With it, a classic from the Barrio Central menu, the Rumshackle: Santa Teresa rum, orange curacao, pineapple is an incredibly sweet and fruity cocktail, bright with the tropical rum and the powerful pineapple. A beautiful presentation, however.

Barrio Central Soho Cocktail Bar London

The Rumshackle

Service is absolutely on point, swift and polite. What I am looking forward to is more from Sophie Mackay‘s coming menu which frankly outshines the older Barrio cocktail collection. True, the Ol’ Dirty Bastard is a good classic, but Bossa Beleza and Cuba Lima knock the Wonky Donky, Rumshackle and Hand Grenade HiBall out of the water. The drinks coming up seem to be more balanced, with more focus on the spirits’ innate flavour profile to shine through without being overwhelmed with juices.

Barrio Central knows what it does and does it well: providing a chilled out spot to relax with a group of friends, no fuss or stuffiness. A party spot in Soho we’re glad to have back.

 

Drinks: ** (Classic menu) – *** (menu Coming Soon)
Atmosphere: ***
Service: ****

 

Barrio Central

6 Poland Street, Soho,
London W1F 8PS

http://www.barriocentral.com/