The Fat Bear, St Pauls

Type of BarBar/Restaurant, American
Damage£££
Ideal forFoodSmall GroupsLarge GroupsAfter Work

An undisturbed backstreet just off the road from St Paul’s grand cathedral, away from the bustle of the tourist crowd, there hides a gem, just above the Rising Sun.

Blues on the speakers, The Fat Bear’s low light and decor is a portal to Louisiana, easy going and demands you carry a fan with you for the drama. The venue creates a delightful balance of light heartedness and a casual fanciness, like dining at a pressed white tablecloth venue without feeling the need to roll your eyes every 5 minutes. As per the name and theme, I felt it was only fair to rock up in an enormous fur coat with fan. Look, I like themes, alright?

The food menu is a Southern delight but resist the urge to order everything, this veritable orgy of food will overwhelm you. When the two of us clearly were out of our league we did have to enlist the help of a bartender and a friend in the area to tackle our order – these portions are deceptively enormous!

One of our favourite bartenders and a wizard with rum, Gergὄ serves up a Solera Club, a lower ABV beauty. Mixing Amontillado sherry, Cynar, peche, and absinthe; nutty sherry makes a sweeping entrance before allowing the stone fruit to blossom, dragging you back down into the bittersweet Cynar, ending on the aniseed effervescence of the absinthe. A dozen times, yes.

But if you want that sour pick me up, the Pendennis is here for you: gin, apricot, lemon and Peychaud’s bitters. Astringent and in heels, the cocktail opens with spicy Bimber gin as a backdrop to the apricot that takes the stage, ending on a length of aniseed and Creole spice.

Now listen to me very carefully, reader. You want the corndogs. Order the corndogs. I don’t know what it is that makes these corndogs so addictive, but a pair of these (especially when paired with the sriracha mayo) will make your night. The train of starters kept coming in: the southern fried boneless chicken tenders were a crispy perfection, competing for the most attention for chicken with the kickin’ buffalo wings with their blue cheese dip – fighting hard for some of the best I’ve had in the city. Need more chilli? Ask about the Fat Bear’s extensive hot sauce list – why do Creole remoulade when you can do ghost peppers?

In typical Gergὄ fashion, we ain’t leaving with getting our fill of Tiki cocktails! The Tiki Sour combines Jamaica Cove Pineapple Rum, Somerset cider brandy, Orgeat, Falernum, lime, cinnamon bitters, egg white. Pineapple and cinnamon on the nose, the apple eau de vie tags on the arm of the pineapple rum, spice in their wake. The Falernum and lime helps temper the sweetness of the orgeat and cinnamon for a whole tour of flavour. In many ways, a classic Sour – which we down with our wonderfully savoury pimento cheese and toasted ciabatta, and fries topped with cheese, spring onion and bacon while waiting for our mains – yeah it’s at this point we should have assumed we were being ambitious.

Mid meal, say hello to the Welcome to Oaxaca: Gem & Bolt Mezcal, Ocho Tequila, Benedictine, Yellow Chartreuse, Miracle Mile Lime and Bergamot bitters. As part of what seems to be our global tour of cocktails, we pull up in my favourite spirit-homeland. Normally made with Sekforde Tequila Mixer, the mixer is switched out for bitters because by now we know my style.

Gem & Bolt Mezcal kicks down the door to the tune of Boys by Lizzo before immediately swirling into peppery, herbaceous Ocho tequila. Herbal and sweet eucalyptus of Yellow Chartreuse and spicy-bitter Benedictine step in before just as quickly returning to a finish of lightly smoky and floral Gem & Bolt.

And here’s the kicker: the best gumbo and jambalaya this side of the Atlantic.
Chicken, custom made Andouille sausage and prawns stew make a gumbo that blow the rest out of the water, and a spicy seafood jambalaya of prawn, catfish and Andouille sausage smothering rice for a Creole experience unbeaten in the UK. But that’s why you’re here.
On the side, creamed greens and mac & cheese, because clearly we haven’t learned our lesson in portions.

Ending the meal evening with a few neat spirits to celebrate the impressive and unique back bar, the Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish Rye on the nose is a glory. Caramel and sweetest cinnamon carouse around nutty warm spice. Opening with hazelnut and soft marzipan, the honeyed powder spice ends chocolatey and smokey with soaking, sugared dates and fig. What a gorgeous dram.

Finally, here they come – flaming Baked Alaska and oreo cheesecake to end the meal. Perfection, this Alaska, blue and radiant, and the oreo cheesecake a decadent chocolatey delight. By this point we basically recruited two more people to help make our way through the meal. But honestly, we wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Finally, to conclude, the Long Pond 11-year-old 2007 Rum. Wow. This one is unforgiving and smooth – blasting your palate with spice and florals before descending into familiar cocoa and cigar smoke and coffee bean. A perfect alternative to a cigar.

The Fat Bear is somewhat overlooked as one of the most hedonistic nights out in the City, and possibly in London. You might have shaved a solid 5 years off your lifespan but by Screamin’ Jay Hawkin’s false septum piercing it was damn well worth it. I mean you’re sitting at the bar across from the entire Pappy’s whiskey selection and the Antique range by Buffalo Trace while filled with cheese, you aren’t in any place to complain.

Even if you’re just popping by on the way home from work for a pair of corndogs and a bourbon, come down to this little Louisiana haven – you won’t regret it.

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

The Fat Bear

61 Carter Ln,
London EC4V 5DY

http://www.thefatbear.co.uk

18/81, and Nocturnal Animals, Birmingham

Someone should have let me know that I was sleeping on Birmingham’s bar scene cause damn.

Spending a weekend in the Midlands at the Bites Here and There conference, the Hoodooist and friends got to crawl around some of the most impressive cocktails bars B’ham has to offer.

18/81

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

I ain’t gonna tell you how to find this venue, but follow your gut. London’s speakeasies could learn a thing or two about how to….be an actual speakeasy from 18/81.

Once in, the décor is clean and simple, a risky decision but lord, was I happy to not see a speakeasy made of low lights and leather armchairs.

This menu unapologetically revels in the return of vodka and that is so refreshing to see.

The Oaxaca

The Oaxaca mixes mezcal, mole negro, red Muscat, and served with a dark chocolate garnish.

“Is this just you in a glass?” Natalie of legal and IT recruiters Tap Search asks.

And she has a point. Smoky mezcal with hints of white pepper gives into lightly floral sweet Muscat, before being a submerged into dark chocolate and spicy chilli, from the savouriness of the mole. Do I love this cocktail? It goes on forever and stands as one of the best I’ve had in a while,and certainly the best I’ve had in Birmingham (in competition with the Smokey Old Bastard by the Edgbaston Hotel).

The Garden to Glass

The Garden to Glass serves vodka, wild nettle, cut grass, and garden herbs

Spectacular. Icy vodka prickled with fresh, grassy notes and effervescent nettle that cuts through the herbs. If light cocktails are your style, this is what you need.

Le Jardin once again gives us vodka, this time with jasmine, wormwood, and wild flowers. I have mixed feelings here. I do like the perfumed nature of the drink, and the anisey wormwood, but it feels a little *too* perfumed. If you like bitter and floral, here’s your cocktail, an acquired taste though it is.

The Shandong Blonde, and Le Jardin

The Shandong Blonde, a mix of vodka (Well, this has clearly made a comeback), Szechuan pepper flower, citrus, borage honey. Sweeter, if a bit confused. Maybe I’m just being fussy after the Oaxaca and Garden to Glass? The light floral spice feels a bit conflicted against the powerful raw honey sweetness of the borage honey. It doesn’t taste how you’d expect it, while also tasting exactly how you’d expect it to.

With a spectacular team behind the bar, service is impeccable. 18/81 serves us an amazing experience, down to the hunt for the venue.

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

18/81
Thorp St,
Birmingham B5 4AU

http://1881birmingham.co.uk/

Nocturnal Animals

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant
Damage: ££
Ideal for: FoodSmall Groups, Date

Talk about a showstopping look. Black walls, blue banquettes, neon against a massive bar – complete with multi-sensory distortion dividers (touch em, you’ll see what I mean). Nocturnal Animals knows how to turn a look – and don’t miss the IG opportunities downstairs!

This menu is set up in an excellent manner – each section has a base spirit and set of ingredients, followed by three takes on that mix – the Short, the Sharp, and Long – each a longer version of the prior.

The Short Pisco, adds pink grapefruit, rosewater, peach, Turmeon Rose vermouth, Aperol, and Japanese peach bitters to the mix.

The fruit of the Turmeon Rose Vermouth comes through on the nose quite spectacularly. The palette is similarly sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. For its sweetness, the drink is perfectly short, since it would take you as long to drink.

Wonderfully fruited from the vermouth and fruits, the pisco and Aperol just pull it back from a fructose hell into being a fabulously balanced sweet cocktail with a mild winter spice hit. Wave after wave of fruit notes make this a rollercoaster delight.

The Short Pisco

The Short Gin, mixes green chilli, pear eau de vie, Turmeon weed vermouth, and charred fennel bulbs.

Now, there is a lot to be said about the political ramifications of racism and the prison system in the legal cannabis market but anyway, here we are being edgy.

That said, this Martini works excellently, though is an acquired taste. The gin is drowned out by the other ingredients, however. The bright chilli is immediately followed up by the cannabis flavour of the vermouth and fennel, but eventually settling on the sweeter notes of the pear and vermouth, and a great long finish.

The Short Gin

Remember to book, this place is booked up and take in all this dystopian sexiness.

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

Nocturnal Animals
20 Bennetts Hill,
Birmingham B2 5QJ

https://www.nocturnal-animals.co.uk/

Join us again next time for our review of the Edgbaston Hotel, Birmingham!

Death+Victory, Smithfield

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant
Damage: £££
Ideal for: FoodSmall GroupsLarge GroupsAfter Work

 

Smiths of Smithfields, a Farringdon staple for it’s multiple floors and enormous space, has long attracted city boys after work and meetings in the day time. One of its floors has now been relaunched as Death + Victory, a dedicated cocktail space.

This smaller bar exists as a more private, less formal, room away from the rest of the venue, allowing for some intimacy and conversation. In teals and yellows, with low candle light, it maintains a city-chic.

We were looked after by George, who was attentive and made fantastic conversation. Even when busy, we didn’t feel overlooked.

SOS-1stfloorlowres-26-1024x683

The menu is meant to be easy and accessible to the cater to the after-work or quick meeting experience. Light and easy drinking cocktails that often come as twists on classics.

The Smooth Fields presents us with a twist on the whiskey sour – Jameson Caskmates stout edition whiskey, Amaro Averna, egg white, lemon, sugar syrup. The Caskmates’ nose of orchard fruit and the Amaro’s spice comes through on the nose. As a sour, it holds its own with the Amaro’s bittersweet orange zest and liquorice flavours adding a bit of tart bitterness to the sweeter Irish potstill and hopsy notes from the stout cask.

While we’re on the sour train, the Monkey Went To Market mixes Monkey 47 gin, apricot liqueur, lime juice, gomme, egg white and garnished with mango. An excellent sour where the woodsy and spicy Monkey 47 is balanced out against the apricot for a bright cocktail.

Our final two cocktails include the one that didn’t work too well and one that was excellent.

The Horace, I think, is entirely too ambitious. Absolut Elyx, jasmine tea, Lillet Blanc, lemon juice, chocolate bitters, Champagne creates a cacophony of clashing flavours and temperatures, with the hot tea is mixed in with the cold spirits, and asking the bartender to chill it down was one way of making it more drinkable.

On the other hand, The Regal was an excellent take on a classic Brooklyn.

The bar had (luckily) just run out of Lillet Rouge, which would be the usual vermouth for the cocktail (let’s leave the argument for whether or not Lillet is a vermouth for another time). Instead we used the Lillet Blanc to mix with Chivas Regal 18YO, Maraschino and honey water.

Saving the cocktail from the potentially sickly mix of the Rouge, the Blanc instead allows for a lighter yet still decadent cocktail where the marmalade and cocoa of the Chivas mellow out the honey water, with that added candied orange and quinine of the Lillet Blanc giving it that little kick.

ptr

The Horace and the Regal

If I were to raise a concern, it would be that the prices were slightly steep for the offering at 12 GBP each.

Outside that one concern, we must acknowledge the comfortable space and attentive service, the drinks were all approachable and enjoyable, and it is pleasing to see an after-work staple for so many in the area step up its cocktail game.

 

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

Death + Victory @ Smiths of Smithfield

67-77 Charterhouse St, Clerkenwell,
London EC1M 6HJ

https://www.smithsofsmithfield.co.uk/death-victory-cocktail-bar

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.

bdr

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!

bdr

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.

bdr

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.

bty

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.

bdr

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.

bty

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.

bty

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.

bdr

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.

bty

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.

bdr

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.

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.

Image may contain: food

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.

Image may contain: people sitting, drink, table and indoor

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.

Image may contain: drink, night and indoor

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.

Image may contain: 3 people, table and indoor

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/

Herman ze German, Fitzrovia

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant
Damage£-££
Ideal for: FoodSmall Groups

 

 

Late nights and stomach-lining before drinks is our first thought when we think ‘Herman ze German‘, but why wait? Especially when the branch at Charlotte Street now serves it’s own drinks?

A cocktail menu has found its way into the basement bar and dining area, serving up twists on classics to go with some new menu additions!

untitled

The mixed drinks inject some German traditional fare like the German Fritz Co’s drinks.

Some classics like the Aperol Spritz and a Margarita (using Tequila Ocho) are always solid crowd pleasers, others, like the Gin Melon, mix  Beefeater gin, lemongrass and Fritz Melon. The Fritz honey melon mixer could use more of the spice from the lemongrass, but makes for a fun light drink for the summer.

 

Here on out, things might go a bit pear-shaped for those who don’t have a massive sweet tooth. The Mish Mashed brings Asbach rye whiskey to Fritz MischMasch, a German cola/orange soda hybrid, and it’s about as confusing as it sounds. Similarly, the Cherry Bomb dessert drink mixes Fritz Cherry, Asbach brandy and chocolate liqueur for something entirely too sweet and sickly.

14088608_10154504411234559_3111059130871368690_n

However, the food is on point and delightfully indulgent. The new Bratmeister brings a major twist to HzG’s traditional menu: the signature Black Forrest bratwurst is garnished with freshly roasted veggies, aged feta and topped off with homemade veal gravy. It still needs to live up to the undeniably cheesy goodness of their schnitzel, though.

 

Service in this basement is excellent, and really is what made our visit – and why HzG manages to be a fun place to chill with friends over some currywurst. Even if 7 quid for spirits and mixer is a tad steep.

 

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

 

Herman ze German

43 Charlotte St, Fitzrovia, 
London W1T 1RS

http://www.hermanzegerman.com/

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.

 

14500501_10154628805344559_6371883763521570944_o

 

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/

Game of Thrones Menu at @Bird Of Smithfield, Clerkenwell

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Also optional Basement, Rooftop
The Iron Price: Three courses £30
Ideal for: FoodDate, Small Groups, Large GroupsAfter Work

 

Game of Thrones Menu available 15th – 26th August 2016

Okay, you know we love Bird of Smithfield – we’ve covered their drinks and a solid 4/5 was in order. Simple, elegant, get the job done.

And for this week only, the restaurant unveils a dedicated set menu (horse hearts and incest not included) celebrating the Game of Thrones fandom – or at least staving off GoT deprivation during the hiatus!

The menu appeals to the theme of the series while maintaining the approachable simplicity of British fare – and in BoS tradition, managing to amp up the everyday to a meal worth travelling for.

Bird of Smithfield Game of Thrones

Okay. This is gorgeous.

The Dracarys Salad felt like bit of a crime to eat, really.

Marbled quail eggs nested on salad with bacon lardons presented beautifully on a noodle nest. The eggs just perfectly runny and shimmering in the streaming light, and crisp of bacon for that little Dothraki touch.

14063903_10154476594594559_6409129490331839702_n

Then, what is a party in Westeros without a pie (and several casualties)?

Joffrey’s Wedding Pie is suitably hearty and incredibly filling: Chicken , quail and leeks spill from the pie, sizzling. Once the quail stabbing through the pie is dealt with, the perfectly crisp and flaky pastry is broken through to the chicken underneath.

Bird of Smithfield Game of Thrones

Finally, the meal ends with the Ice and Fire, a vanilla Baked Alaska comes with Wildfire!

Green Chartreuse is spilled around the dessert to be set alight – keep your vial of Wildfire to drink as a digestif after.

The vanilla gelato encased the the cake might be slightly firmer than we’d like, but the browned meringue is just right, and spiced up with the Chartreuse for just a little bit of kick for a twist.

Bird of Smithfield Game of Thrones

 

Bird of Smithfield manages to chic up most Game of Thrones/ASoIaF themed meals and keeping the simplicity of British fare – and all for a modest price. Highly recommended for the GoT fan – and certainly on Friday night to welcome the Night Tube as you saunter away from your Westerosi dining at midnight.

(Look out for our Night Tube launch party recommendations tomorrow!)

Game of Thrones menu only till Friday 26th August 2016! To book, call 0207 559 5100

 

Bird of Smithfield

26 Smithfield St, Clerkenwell
London EC1A 9LB

http://birdofsmithfield.com/

Bird of Smithfield, Clerkenwell

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Also optional Basement
Damage££ 
Ideal for: FoodDate, Small Groups, Large GroupsAfter Work

 

Here on Highball Hoodoo we had already reviewed this summer’s Aperol Spritz Terrazza open on the roof terrace of Bird of Smithfield – but it hides so much more.

A comfy restaurant and bar on the ground floor, with the private-bookings Birdcage in the basement serve up some cocktails that rival the best of Clerkenwell.

The ground floor bar is perfect for the day time – bright eggshells and greys with scattered kitsch and 70s throwbacks make a great space for an afternoon hang out or meeting. The Birdcage downstairs, though, takes the lighting down a notch for a sexy charcoal and cerulean, lit by mirrors and illuminated trees and birdcages.

Bartenders are wonderful, service is swift, and servers are more than happy to discuss the cocktail with you.

Bird of Smithfield London Cocktail bar

The new cocktail menu launched earlier this year appeals to a variety of palates and flavours, and does not shy from a little bit of experimentation.

Beginning with the Cointreauversial: Cointreau, Remy Martin VSOP cognac, apricot brandy, lime, Angostura bitters. The first wash is the rich and floral cognac, with strong notes of apricot and nectarine, violet and vanilla, giving way to the Cointreau’s orange and a stronger citrus, finally becoming quite tart.

A great option for those enjoying citrus and floral flavours, but want something a bit rich and not served long or with ice.

Bird of Smithfield London Cocktail bar

The Mr. Pacifico – I do love this cocktail: Mezcal, Pisco, blackberry and blueberry shrub, cardamom bitters, chilli vermouth, and Fernet Branca. Pisco ain’t easy to use in a cocktail – but this smoky/spicy tipple is just what you need when you want a bit of bite with your fruity sour/sweet.

Bird of Smithfield London Cocktail bar

The Lucky One is another that defies convention. Tincup Whiskey, Flaming Pig liqueur, Negra Modelo ale syrup, ginger bitters, lemon, Angostura bitters, egg white. The ale syrup really mellows out the other powerful flavours we see here: the cinnamon sweetness of the Flaming Pig, the butterscotch and high rye spice of the Tincup and ginger bitters. So what we get is an easy to down, grain-strong spicy tankard. Love it.

13507099_10154332799844559_8491667648693764945_n

The Lucky One

The LDN: BOLD London Cherry Spirit, Aperol, Cynar, orange & mandarin bitters, rhubarb bitters. BOLD does it again! Aperol dominates, but enjoys complexity added by the bittersweet Cynar and the sweetness of BOLD cherry. The citrus bitters are more noted here, adding an almost sparkling flicker in the cocktail.

Aperol Spritzes are well and good, but the LDN does not compromise on ABV and celebrates Aperol in way only London could.

Bird of Smithfield London Cocktail bar

The LDN

The Lord of Isles is another favourite here: Botanist gin, rhubarb and thyme syrup, Cynar, Kummel, and lime. Served for two, smoking inside a treasure chest, the box is opened to unveil two small cocktails in tiki glasses.

Not a sweet cocktail, but bright and herbal, with added depth from the Cynar. You’d almost forget it was gin. Warm and citrus with spice from the Botanist leads to the Kummel’s light aniseed flavour, but not compromising on it’s coating mouthfeel – finally enjoying a bit of sweetness from the rhubarb and thyme and then settling on the depth of Cynar, with a Kummel finish.

An enigmatic and adventurous cocktail. Loved around the table.

 

Not Just a Dram: Bruichladdich whisky, Lapsang souchong tea, lime juice, yellow chartreuse, sage leaves, plum and cardamom bitters.

I was hoping this would be a short, smoky cocktail – however the Not Just a Dram is served similar to a Julep, tall and filled with crushed ice.

I’d really like to return to try this straight up in a coupe, to really enjoy the whisky and tea. The brightness of the Bruichladdich is meant to be contrasted against the smoky lapsang, but I couldn’t get much with the ice here. Tasted a wee bit watered down, I’m afraid. Considering I absolutely *love* the sound of these ingredients together!

Definitely returning for this.

Bird of Smithfield London Cocktail bar

The Not Just A Dram

The Kenko Cha goes East by adding pineapple-infused Tanqueray gin to Canton ginger liqueur, Matcha, grapefruit, lime, sugar and egg white.

This was one cocktail I didn’t quite take to, but to be fair, I do have a slight aversion to strong pineapple flavours. And man was it strong here. I couldn’t help but feel it drowned out the others, and so missed the potential.

Bird of Smithfield London Cocktail bar

All in all: I love this bar. Wonderful service coupled with a large variety of cocktail flavours and various levels from the basement to terrace for different events make this bar a winner. Bird of Smithfield is a must when in Clerkenwell.

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


Bird of Smithfield

26 Smithfield St, Clerkenwell
London EC1A 9LB

http://birdofsmithfield.com/

MASH Steak 2016, Soho

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Basement
Damage££ – £££
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups, Large Groups, Steak, Originality

 

Ah, MASH. The Danish-American steak venture is bound to have a surge in bar visitors with the introduction of their new menu, taking on more international influences.

MASH’s enormous Lynchian red and black pseudo-Deco décor retains that element of American-but-not-quite, and I must still recommend seating right up at the bar for the best lighting and experience with the wonderful bartenders and service offered (the service, as always, was impeccable. It’s one of MASH’s greatest strengths – shout out to bartender Steve!). This is, of course, if you are coming for the bar and not for the meal, in which case there is the gargantuan restaurant and red booths that are open to you. However, one must recommend the bar snacks, especially the MASH tartare and chilli fries; as well as the jalapeno cheese balls.

 

So the cocktails! We provided a review of their glorious 2015 cocktail list, and look forward to covering this year’s!

Though the new menu is meant to evoke a USA Frontier to Prohibition era apothecary, one will see inspirations from Scandinavia, Central Europe and Italy. And though it has kept a small handful of drinks from the old menu, MASH has developed a large and innovative new selection. Often working with spirit companies to help create bespoke glassware for their drinks; personally, the glassware can be a highlight of the drinking experience here.

Though we went through the entire new menu, let us cover the ones that stand out here today.

MASH Soho London Cocktail Bar

Because why not.

If you wanna start with a winner – remember the name: Sunshine State Fix. A desserty digestivo, the cocktail mixes Bacardi 8 Rum, pistachio liqueur, lemon juice, orgeat, egg white and chocolate bitters.

A cocktail take on gelato, if anything, the sweetness of Sicilian pistachios (and we all know how the Hoodooist loves Sicilian pistachios) blends wonderfully with the rum, and the finish wafts in with hints of almond and citrus.

Rarely does the Hoodooist enjoy a dessert, particularly one with chocolate bitters, but my word. The Sunshine State Fix is exquisite.

MASH Soho London Cocktail Bar

The Binchotan

The Binchotan uses a stick of white Japanese charcoal to filter and mellow the normally sharp flavours of Bulleit Rye, with Slovakian Tatra Tea Coconut, cardamom bitters and sugar.

An improvement on the ingredients of the Binchotan of 2015’s menu – the Hoodooist might love Cynar from the old recipe, but the new concoction is a major improvement.

The technique used to mellow the rye though, also mellows out the rest of the flavours, but not to the extent as last year’s Binchotan, where the flavours muddled together. The Tatra tea is much stronger, turning what used to be a Bourbon Old Fashioned to a spiced, silky (though slightly syrupy) sweetened Rye cocktail for adults.

I like the slow melting ice, but not when the ice is taller than the glass, making it an interference to drink. Your index finger is necessary here.

MASH Soho London Cocktail Bar

The Mexican Smuggler

Now here is a star. A hit with the Hoodooist and friends, the Mexican Smuggler mixes Casco Viejo Blanco tequila, Del Maguey Vida mezcal, basil and Szechuan pepper sugar, lime, MASH Pilsner, garnished with Serrano ham crisp.

Okay. Hear me out. I actually enjoyed a beer cocktail.

I know I told off House of Peroni for making me lose faith in beer cocktails, but MASH has helped me reconsider. The light and slightly tart drink almost plays the part of citrus to pair with the peppery and herbal tequila, and the wonderfully smoky mezcal.

A long finish allows you to enjoy the spices of the mezcal, ginger and cinnamon, which burst to life with a bite of the Serrano ham. Drink this.

MASH Soho London Cocktail Bar

Steve and the One of This!

You might have questions for the One of This. This is one hell of a complex cocktail which even left the Hoodooist quizzical.

Powerfully herbal and minty Fernet Branca meets Disaronna amaretto, lemon, sugar, peach bitters and maraschino with egg white – served with wonderfully nostalgic fizzy sweets.

My recommendation with this cocktail is for it to be shaken longer with smaller ice cubes, because over time, the flavours blended and harmonised wonderfully. Maraschino cherried, the initial fruity sweetness is followed by a tart and herbal hit to sides of the tongue, and gentian root quinine depth that fizzes to the surface with the lighter fruit flavours once again.

Bit of a rollercoaster, in the best of ways. Certainly an acquired taste, for the adventurous palate.

MASH Soho London Cocktail Bar

The BLT

Okay so, I love Becherovka. I don’t understand why more bartenders don’t use it, because this Czech spirit deserves a more notable place in the back bar.

The BLT is one odd but beautiful drink. Heir to last year’s fabulous Yosemite cocktail, this simpler drink mixes the bitter spirit with tonic reduction and sparkling wine for a true Prohibition era revivifier.

The spices don’t play as strong a part as they did in last year’s Yosemite, instead what we get is the crisp bitter Becherovka dancing and swirling with the herbal quinine of the tonic reduction and the sweetness of the sparkling wine and sugar rim for a bright, sparkling, daytime aperitif. Absolutely adore the simplicity of the BLT because have not had enough of the gin and tonic?!

MASH Soho London Cocktail Bar

The Konik’s Whisperer

Brought in by the absolutely wonderful ambassador of Konik’s Tail Vodka, the Konik’s Whisperer is popularised by ambassador Swanand Korgaonkar.

The cocktail is named after the Berkeley and American Bar alum, nicknamed the Konik’s Whisperer because goddamn can this man sell a drink. Konik’s Tail Vodka meets Vya Dry Vermouth, cardamom bitters and a twist of lemon. Powerfully dry, this cocktail explores the various complex flavours of this award-winning vodka.

Though I find that this cocktail focuses far more on the vermouth’s flavours, with cardamom ruling the roost. If you like your Vodka Martinis smooth and sleek, this is not your drink. The Konik’s Whisperer is a violent plunge into a swirl of flavours.

MASH Soho London Cocktail Bar

L – R: The Danish Crown, and Persephone’s Seed.

The above drinks are stars, this one is a bit confusing: we have the  the Danish Crown.

 

The Danish Crown is impressive and unique, but slinks to the side of bizarre: Fat washed Geneivre, Lillet Rouge vermouth, chocolate bitters, creme de cassis, and lemon.

Fried chicken. I love fried chicken. I’m not sure about drinking a sweetened liquid friend chicken though.

I mean I still drank it, but its that feeling you get after watching an episode of Geordie Shore. Like, do I need a shower? Or 50 Hail Marys? I’d probably still drink it is someone bought it for me, though. Because fried chicken. I’m so confused.

MASH Soho London Cocktail Bar

The fabulous Swanand shaking those Daiquiris

The NYC Calling is not a bad drink, but has so many ingredients it misses the point. Hudson Four Grain bourbon, Bacardi 8 rum, Martini Gran Lusso vermouth, creme de cafe, maple, sea salt solution, and Angostura bitters.

I do enjoy the hit of sea salt in the cocktail, but this sweet drink on the rocks can be easily replicated with an Anejo Rum Old Fashioned and a sprinkle of sea salt with far fewer ingredients.

 

Finally, the For Him is the one drink we didn’t actually like at all.

I’d avoid it altogether. First of all, it is part of a pair – the For Her/For Him. My peated whisky swigging female pal and I glanced at each other with the ‘sweeter For Her’ and the ‘bitter For Him’. Who doesn’t love casual and unnecessary gendering of alcohol.

The cocktail itself is Zacapa rum, pear liqueur, pear eau d’vie, chocolate bitters, Mozart chocolate liqueur, with sea salt solution.

I hate to say it, but this doesn’t work.

But I’d like to remind the reader that this is in comparison to the wonderful, fabulous winners that are the Sunshine State Fix, the Binchotan, Mexican Smuggler, BLT, One of This, and the rest of those incredible drinks on the MASH 2016 menu!

CroppedOneWatermarkImage960435-16600-558556540824545-650323078-n2.jpg

All in all? What an exciting menu! Though less experimental and sensual than 2015’s menu, it is still full of originality. Coupled with their incredible service, MASH is still up the list for innovative cocktails in London, and easily one of my most favoured places in Soho.

 

Drinks: **** 
Atmosphere: *** on seats, ***** at bar
Service: *****

 

MASH Steak

77 Brewer Street,
London,W1F 9ZN.

http://www.mashsteak.co.uk/