Tag Archives: Bar/Restaurant
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!
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!
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.
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’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!
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 @ The Lodge
18th and 25th April
409 Clapham Rd, Clapham North
London SW9 9BT
Native, Seven Dials
Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
3 Neal’s Yard, Seven Dials,
London, WC2H 9DP
Ropewalk by Disappearing Dining Club, Bermondsey
Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Quirky
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Ropewalk by Disappearing Dining Club
41 Maltby Street, Bermondsey,
London SE1 3PA
Barrio Central, Soho
Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Mexican
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
6 Poland Street, Soho,
London W1F 8PS
The Bayou Banquet @ The Vaults, Waterloo
Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, American, Pop Up
Ideal for: Food, Brunch, Live Music, Hangover, Small Groups
Purveyors of all things Louisiana – from soul food to jumpin’ live music – Slap Ya Papa! (‘because he never cooked you food so good!’) is bringing their red-lit New Orleans inspired world to the Victorian railway arches at The Vaults this September with a two week festival of events to launch The Vaults Kitchen, a brand new restaurant space at London Waterloo’s subterranean hub of arts and culture.
With the Mississippi melting pot as its muse, The Bayou Banquet will give guests a taste of the heady, vibrant and culturally unique world of New Orleans. Featuring a spectrum of experiences, from immersive supper clubs, live music and Crescent City cocktail fuelled parties, to interactive art exhibitions and auctions, all-day Sunday brunches and even a hint of celebrity, with a run of cabaret audiences with Nola native and Mad Men star Bryan Batt.
Throughout the residency, the first in a rolling series of pop-up restaurant concepts at The Vaults Kitchen, Slap Ya Papa will team up with kindred culture collectives artists Marbles and Ware, and live bands Riot Jazz and Kansas Smitty to offer a programme of festivities to run throughout the day and late into the night, showcasing the best of a bubbling new wave of the most soulful Deep South food, art and live blues, jazz, funk and soul music in London.
The Hoodooist’s experience at the Egg, Bacon, Grits…SAUSAGE Brunch served up aforementioned dish with a wonderful smattering of green onions and spices with cornbread and sweet potato muffins with the most wonderful honey butter.
Better than that, though, was the magic Laura was concocting behind the bar – as blues played in the painting-adorned hall with its communal dining tables. After the first sitting, diners are led to the bar area to take on the rest of the cocktail menu.
The Bloody Derby brings Four Roses Bourbon with “a secret mix” blending Tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper, Amontillado sherry, Picklehouse pickle juice and tomato juice. The Amontillado is what makes this for that bite of dryness that goes so well with the the Picklehouse and cayenne. A fantastic Bloody Mary twist.
The Deepsouth Widemouth has vanilla-infused Four Roses Bourbon, fresh chilli, ginger shrub, Amaro and Campari reduction for a smooth aperitif. It’s got a real kick, this one, long, dry, with a hint of sweetness from the vanilla and ginger shrub. If you’re afraid of Campari, don’t be, the reduction grants it only a hint of the flavour. Enjoyed this drink, though takes a while with its strength and dryness.
Finally, the Missy Sippy: Vodka, Kamm & Sons, lemon, mint, and sweet potato syrup. Now here’s one for the sweet tooth – the ginseng of Kamm & Sons lends to a musky sweetness, as does the syrup, luckily the lemon lifts the drink up a bit (considering its thickness). Personally, it does well as a liquid dessert.
Service is swift, and the smaller space makes it easier to grab attention of the staff – at the bar, expect conversation and quick service from Laura dishing out those Bloody Derbys!
Event info and ticket link below!
Events at The Bayou Banquet to look forward to:
Wednesday 16th, Thursday 17th & Thursday 24th September – Slap Ya Papa Supper Clubs (£30)
Friday 18th September – Slap Ya Papa X Riot Jazz (£35)
Saturday 19th September & Saturday 26th September – Marbles & Ware Bizarre Bazaar (free entry)
Saturday 19th September & Saturday 26th September – Marbles & Ware Bidders’ 5 course Banquet (£40)
Sunday 20th September & Sunday 27th September – Slap Ya Papa presents: Egg, Bacon, Grits…SAUSAGE Brunch (£20)
Monday 21st – Wed 23rd September – The Bryan Batt Cabaret presents Tales from New Orleans (Mon/Tues – £25 [non-dining], Wed – £40 [includes four course dinner])
Friday 25th September – Slap Ya Papa X Kansas Smitty (£35)
As they say in Nola – Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!
Tickets can be bought at: http://www.the-vaults.org/#!slap-ya-papa/cfpu
The Tea Den @ Opium, Chinatown
Type of Bar: Pop Up, Bar/Restaurant, Chinese, Speakeasy, Lounge
Ideal for: Tea, Food, Date, Small Groups
Okay. Seriously. Forget what else is happening on Afternoon Tea Week 2015 (10th-16th August) – your butts should be at Opium Chinatown.
We’ve reviewed Opium Chinatown before (Click HERE for Review!), but this week they will be working alongside The London Tea Club, and lifestyle brand, Oblique.
The London Tea Club, spread across Europe and North America, supply members with teas every month matching their flavour profile – perfect for the tea buff – have supplied Opium with a share of some of their most popular teas to construct a spectacular tea-infused cocktail list for Afternoon Tea Week (though the Hoodooist says that they should be permanent cocktails on the Opium menu).
Tucked away in the deep red corridors of Opium, beyond the Jade Door on Gerrard Street, find yourself present with 5 magical cocktails, named after the tea used in the concoction:
A major hit of the night (with one friend drinking three of them exclusively), the Antique Rose: Absolut Elyx vodka infused with Antique Rose tea, with Cocchi Americano Rosa and orange oil.
A beautiful, beautiful twist on the vodka Martini, the nose is alluring and primarily the Rosa’s berries and florals (lavender?), with hints of bitter chinchona. By palate, the sweeter tea with powerful rose notes adds life to the Elyx, the strong tea and rose eruption is followed by enveloping raspberry, strawberry and vanilla – ending on a castanet kick of quinine, cloves, a hint of ginger and orange zest.
Sophisticated, aromatic, seductive. A winner.
If you want to go for something a little less Carmen, and a bit more Cosette, then the Lapsang Souchong might be for you: Buffalo Trace bourbon, apricot liqueur, tea-smoked cherries.
The normally deep, smokey tea is mellowed here, in a cocktail that appears to be more similar to a whiskey sour than you’d imagine. A very good one, nonetheless. Shy, fruit laden, the cocktail begins with the apricot, followed by the Buffalo Trace’s oaky, toffee, brown sugar flavours, leading toward the slightly more tart cherry and ending on a soft bed of lapsang souchong smoke.
A bit sweet, bit fruity, longer and easy to relish for the whiskey sour fan.
Now the White Peony, this one is always just out of reach, so well-composed, so independent, with footfalls of tiny bells: Double strength White Peony tea, Herradura Plata tequila, Belsazar White vermouth, house falernum.
The nose is strongly of the white peony, but underneath there is a lingering layer of agave. The first flavour belongs to the Herradura, soft, oaky, bright agave notes – but give away almost immediately to the tea, and below flowers the very restrained Belsazar and falernum with spicier, fruitier flavours. This cocktail, though loaded with various flavours, always feels so restrained and in control – it is delicate and patience is needed to fully appreciate it.
In short: It’s a bloody success.
In contrast, the Goji Berry & Chrysanthemum is far louder: The teas infused in Absolut vodka and a splash of pink grapefruit juice makes a strongly juicy and brightly fruity cocktail. It might lack the White Peony’s complexity, but is a great middle-drink when wandering through the menu to lighten the spirits between the hardhitters. It might not be the Hoodooist’s style, but is an admirable cocktail, nonetheless, well crafted.
The pink grapefruit juice and vodka are the first to hit you, followed by the flowering flavours of Goji berry, and finishing on the floral chrysanthemum.
Finally, the Iron Goddess of Mercy. More commonly known as Tie Guan Yin (or even TGY), the dramatic name comes from various legends that have the same result: the Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin, has provided a patient listener with a treasure in the form of an Oolong tea whose popularity spread across the country. Rich, and sweet, using it in a nectar-like syrup for a classic Rum Daiquiri was a fantastic choice.
Refreshing, bright, but not lacking in depth, this cocktail (in all its simplicity) is a breath of fresh air, and a fantastic finisher to the menu. Sweet, uplifting, with hints of herb and spice in the distance (as should be customary of a well-made Daiquiri). Wonderful.
Honestly, recently the Hoodooist has been looking for cocktails that would ‘wow’ him again, and the Tea Den did just that. Having a sip of the teas before their respective cocktails is a great idea to appreciate the brews themselves, as well as identify their place in the cocktails. I also love that the menu is set out in an excellent order, I’d recommend working your way in the same order, as the cocktails flow and contrast wonderfully that way. Manager Bruce Govia has done a remarkable job with working with the London Tea Club here, and service is light, conversational, speedy and approachable.
I guess what I’m saying is: You cannot miss this.
The Tea Den @ Opium, Chinatown
15-16 Gerrard St,
London W1D 6JA
Leicester House, Chinatown
Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Vietnamese
Ideal for: Food, Date, Small Groups
I’ve gotten used to this corner of Soho metamorphosing into different hotels each time I visit. Though the last time was a while back when the Talented Mr. Fox resided on the upper floor (Mr. Fox, who is now focusing his energy in the Bethnal Green destination, Peg + Patriot: Click HERE for Review!)
Leicester House has turned the eerie abattoir chic of its previous incarnations to much more welcoming hues that strongly echo the designers’ work at the Firmdale Hotel group with cerulean and flame orange. Screaming European contemporary, the design is not what you’d expect from a restaurant that identifies itself as ‘French-Vietnamese’. In fact, the meal reflects the continental décor more than its South East Asian heritage – but we’ll get to that in a moment. After all, we are a cocktail blog first and foremost:
Seated on a banquette, the Hoodooist could hardly nurse a Sangiovese – handed by the charming and experienced Michael who runs the show with incredible finesse and efficiency – much longer when they word TALISKER screamed out at him from the menu.
Beginning with a Smoking Negroni: Talisker 10 yr Whisky mixed in with Campari, sweet vermouth, garnished with an orange twist. The nose is distinctly that of the Skye whisky, thick smoke and brine. The first sip instantly hits you with the same flavours, as well as white pepper peatiness, and pronounced heather as the flavours begin to move to the citrus sweetness of the vermouth and the Campari bitterness. The finish has a lingering malt from the whisky.
The first glass was beautiful – however, a friend on the table with the same cocktail received a drink distinctly imbalanced in comparison to the one above, a lot more heavy on the Campari, and skimping on the vermouth, a more medicinal cocktail was produced.
Done well, the Smoking Negroni is wonderful, though one needs to be very precise.
The Kaffir Gimlet brings together Sipsmith Gin, lime, and Kaffir lime leaves. The nose is beautifully floral, with the playful citrus of the Kaffir leaves. Flavours of strong juniper, marmalade, sweet citrus and even (somehow) rose comes through, with a dry, zesty finish. A drink that manages to be simultaneously rather sweet and dry, and perfect for summer afternoons. Simple and refreshing.
The French ‘Pisco’ Sour is a tragic name for a perfectly good drink. Yes, Armagnac and Pisco are similar in many ways: though the grapes are different, both are distilled from wines to produce intense and ludicrously strong brandies – the name French ‘Pisco’ Sour is a worrying attempt to make it familiar, I suppose.
Armagnac Blanche, lime, sugar and egg white. The wheatiness of the Armagnac still soaks through with its earthy terroir flavours, softened by the lime and sugar – a good aperitif in any case.
Finally, the Perfect Calva mixes Calvados, Sweet and Dry Vermouth, garnished with Grillotines cherries. I think it’s the choice in vermouths here that plays an important part – the finished drink is harsh, confused, and could probably benefit from using Cognac as a base. Though the bar menu at Leicester House focuses on simplicity, this cocktail verges on amateurish.
One realises that being a bar is not what Leicester House was going for, the main focus would be the French-Vietnamese cuisine – which would be interesting considering how impacted Vietnamese food was by the French when colonised. Though the dishes were distinctly Vietnamese, they were also distinctly European in that the Vietnamese flavours of citrus and pungent spice were heavily toned down to the point of becoming an Anglicised palate of ‘Vietnamese’ cuisine (why is there Italian ham here?). Many spices seem to have given way to the use of salt and pepper. A tendency to overcook slightly (particularly scallop) is evident.
That is not to say there were no must-order dishes – a simple and satiating starter of green papaya and daikon salad, along with blackened squid and samphire are excellent options. The cod XO sauce may be cooked to perfection, but lacks punch.
What stood out the most as a hit across the table would easily be the rich dark chocolate pot layered with hazelnut coffee cream. Star.
The Leicester House certainly does not aim at focusing on its bar, although could benefit dramatically with more experienced talent behind it. The tendency to simplicity can be a double edged sword, on one hand easy to knock out and reliable – on the other possibly lacking lustre. But hopefully consistency in the cocktails can improve with practice, since the Smoking Negroni is entirely too good when prepared right.
Also hope to see more of a Vietnamese edge in cocktails, the use of more Eastern flavours and possible the host of Rượu rice liquors that Vietnam has to offer.
1 Leicester Street,
London WC2H 7BL
The Jam Tree, Clapham
Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant
Ideal for: Brunch, Sundays, Small Groups
Last night’s whisky barely worn off, the only way to sort it out is a Sunday roast and a Bloody Mary.
Bring on the Jam Tree! From the guys who brought you Fu Manchu, Clapham North (Click HERE for Review!)
Keep in mind, the venue was reviewed on a Sunday morning, so the Hoodooist can’t speak for how crowded it might get on a Saturday night, but it certainly looks like a party venue with the Wrong Trousers Day!
But this Sunday brought the sun back out, and the large outdoor lounging area was open behind the hidden bookcase bar. Shades donned, roasts ordered, the Hoodooist and pal went through three rounds: Two drinks from the Bloody Mary menu, two from the usual cocktail menu, and two from off the menu.
The Bloody Marys: a Classic, and a Wasabi Mary. The Classic Bloody Mary is exactly what you want from it – just the right amount of savour sauce and Tabasco kick.
The Wasabi Mary adds (wait for it) wasabi and soy sauce, much to the Hoodooist’s delight. A nice jolt first thing in the morning.
Post-Roast (the highlight of which is the fantastic black pudding), two cocktails from the menu were ordered: the Damson in a Dress, and Confiture.
The signature cocktail list is lengthy, definitely. But has a slight drawback. They’ve all tried a bit too hard to fit into the ‘jam’ theme – which doesn’t always work to their advantage.
Neither the Confiture, nor the Damson were satisfactory, and seemed forced, though their ideas were good. You see what you get with The Confiture – Cariel Vanilla Vodka, raspberry jam, pineapple juice and Chambord, comes off a bit muddled, and should be served at a lower temperature, if possible.
The Damson in a Dress, dressed up in chocolate net, brought Damson Vodka, Martini Bianco, lime jam and prosecco together, but tasted overwhelmingly of Martini Bianco. Can’t think of a way to help this one.
But there is an upside! Ordering off-menu proved to be a good idea – showing that the skills are present.
A Maker’s Mark Sour is what you’d want from a Sour – the lemon juice tempers the distinct bourbon’s spices, butterscotch and vanilla, with an oaky finish.
And a Laphroaig 10yr Old Fashioned is served with slow-melting ice (well done). Excellently dry and smoky, the sugar brings out the medicinal flavours full force. Once the iodine flavour dies down, it’s followed by seaweed, maybe liquorice? Very enjoyable to lie back and relax with.
Our bartender seemed rather pleased for the off-menu order, especially with the particular whisky orders – off menu seems to be the way to go!
Service is excellent, at least on these quiet Sunday mornings – attentive, swift, conversational.
The Jam Tree is attempting to add the cocktail bar to the gastropub and succeeds so far as classics are always successful when made with a keen hand. However, the signature cocktail list needs much to be desired since a cocktails cannot be twisted into any form to fit a theme. But the talent is present, so if in the area in need of brunch with a fab Bloody Mary on the side, Clapham has a spot.
Drinks: Signature Cocktails: *, Bloody Marys and off-menu drinks: ***
The Jam Tree Clapham
13 – 19 Old Town,
London SW4 0JT
Fu Manchu, Clapham North
Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Late Night, Chinese
Ideal for: Food, Party, Small Groups, Large Groups
Seconds away from the tube, Arch 635 has been revamped to become a ‘restaurant/bar/nightclub’, with an Edwardian/Opium Den twist, named after the controversial character of Dr. Fu Manchu.
I have pointed out problematic themes in the past, such as the issues faced at the Powder Keg Diplomacy, Wandsworth (Click HERE for Review) – and will do so here as well.
Those who know the inspiration of author Sax Rohmer’s infamous villain know that the Doctor isn’t just an antagonist, but introduced in the book ‘The Mystery of Fu Manchu’ as the “Dr. Fu Manchu, the Yellow Peril incarnate in one man” – a character that did not help the widespread Sinophobia present in the UK in the early 1900s. The portraits of actors in yellow-face in the corridors might supposedly be ironic, I don’t quite see the point. If it is one designer’s glorification of a character they like, it’s pretty dated.
Outside the embarrassing yellowface, Fu Manchu also happily invited Dapper Laughs to perform at their venue. Make if it what you will.
Anyway, décor-wise, the arch is kept primarily empty to allow space for partying and socialising, while the banquettes circling the room provide raised seating for diners, guarded by decorative wooden Chinese panelling. Expect much calmer music in the afternoons, and in the late evenings, some soulful or deep house, and nu disco for your dim sum by candlelight in the purple-hued room.
Cocktail-wise, the drinks are a large variety, and themed as well – though not many on the short and neat side.
What you want to order is the Blood of Fu Manchu – at first glance it might *just* seem like a twist on the Bloody Mary, which it essentially is – but will surprise upon first sip. Eristoff vodka, Chinese 5 Spice, 10 yr old Port, ginger puree, oyster sauce and chilli powder, topped up with tomato juice. Much like the Asian Bloody Mary by The Manhattans Project (Click HERE for Review!), it takes inspiration for East Asian ingredients to make an absolutely fantastic cocktail. The salt of the oyster sauce really does the trick to balance out the Port and ginger puree’s sweetness, and the result is a well-balanced, spicy funfest that the Hoodooist highly recommends out of the Fu Manchu menu.
Another high on the list would be the Mai Chai – Ron Zacapa 23 rum, with Kraken Black Spiced, Orange Curacao, lime and Chai Tea syrup – beginning with the smooth Ron Zacapa and hints of orange, building into the spicier flavours of Kraken, finally coming to rest on the cloves, cinnamon and cardamom of the chai syrup. Sweet/sour, smooth, a kind of simplicity some of the drinks on the menu could learn from.
The Dragon Fruit Paloma, an amped up take of the Mexican classic, Sauza Hacienda tequila, Cocchi Americano vermouth, lime juice are mixed in with muddled Dragon Fruit provide a laid back, bright and refreshing. Sauza is either a strange, or very intentional choice of tequila – a very mild, almost characterless tequila on its own (got a few fruit notes, with a white pepper finish), it vanishes in this cocktail. Perhaps making it sneakier?
The cocktail is primarily lime and Dragon Fruit, the vermouth makes and appearance with and orange undertone, and ending on a quinine bite.
The Lady Jasmin twists the classic White Lady by using Jasmine syrup with the Bombay Sapphire gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, eggwhite and Angostura bitters. Pale, frothy and textured, garnished with a purple orchid, the drink is similarly demure, and gentle. Sweet, but almost imperceptibly so with the laid-back nature of jasmine. If you’re cautious around powerful drinks, this would be right up your street, though it left the Hoodooist neither here nor there. The Lady Jasmin does what it sets out to do, and serves you exactly what it told you it would.
Slightly less reserved than the Lady Jasmin, her feistier sister, the Yuzu-Tsu, brings Japanese yuzu tea paste to Cariel Vanilla vodka, Cointreau, lemon juice, egg white and Angostura bitters. Fragrant in two separate ways, the nose is powerfully vanilla, but the taste brings the yuzu’s fragrance out strongly. Tart, yet still somewhat in line with the Lady Jasmin’s gentleness. The same look and texture as the Lady, but garnished with a dried slice of citrus. One should probably use an aromatised yuzu spray to lessen the powerful vanilla nose a bit, but if one doesn’t mind it, it shouldn’t pose any issue.
The Kwang Su Boulevardier, now that sounds right up the Hoodooist’s street: Nikka From the Barrel Japanese whisky, with Antica Formula vermouth, Campari, and Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s Aphrodite Bitters. Loving the first three, the Hoodooist has somewhat of a love/hate relationship with the Aphrodite bitters, which bring powerful cocoa, Arabica coffee, ginseng, ginger and chilli to the fore. In this cocktail though, there are hints of cocoa and a very distant (if you’re looking for it) spice from the bitters.
Otherwise, it begins on a light note – from the Nikka – then moving onto the Campari taking centre stage, and then settling on the warm winter flavours of the Antica Formula’s spices and bitter orange.
Now, it depends on the bartender you have – a colleague received a bland, tasteless drink, whereas the Hoodooist’s turned out surprisingly layered – so I’d imagine you want bartender Wayne to make this for you! A decent aperitif.
Finally, because there must be one, avoid the Green Tea-ni. Do not be enamoured by its promises of earthy Matcha. Because what you will get is painfully sour and confused appletini of sorts, with Bombay Sapphire gin, apple, an overwhelming amount of lime juice, and sugar syrup. One sip from the table was all that was stomached before being set aside.
The dim sum is slightly modernised and moves away from ‘traditional’ dim sum in some ways. Whether one reads this as a step forward or back is up to the reader.
One to recommend would be the Tai Chi Bo Coy Gow scallop and spinach green dumpling. Similarly, the otherwise simple Lor Pak Gou turnip cake is turned up to eleven with Chinese sausage and prawn.
One that you must absolutely order is the Monkfish and lime phoenix-eye dumpling, this Fung Yan Gow starts off with the powerful flavours of the monkfish, and slowly build up to a lime crescendo – loved this. One of the less traditional offerings would be the Chi Si Hoi Sin Kou cheese-stuffed cuttlefish and prawn balls – which, though a more Italian, works spectacularly.
The lobster, prawn and bamboo shoots Lung Har Gau, though, one shouldn’t spend their hard-earned £9.50 for.
Do not forget the great selection of teas! The flowering Lily and Jasmine work a treat.
The more quiet times of day, 5-8 PM means quick and attentive dinner service, however once the crowd pours in for the club nights, ordering a drink can be bit of a task – but servers do their best to help, but might need a slightly thicker skin to move through the crowd.
As one can expect from a club night, drinks are made quickly, and the wait can be long, so as seen with the Kwang Su Boulevardier above, unpredictability is a factor to be taken into account.
London needs more venues that can provide a clubbing experience with cocktails – and a longer food menu certainly doesn’t hurt. One hopes Fu Manchu is a precedent to further venues of the sort to grow in the city, if only to satisfy each friend on a night out.
Atmosphere: Casual racism and misogyny, fun for the whole family!
15-16 Lendal Terrace,
London SW4 7UX.