The General Store @ The Garage, Islington

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

Returning to the revamped spot next to the Garage made me a bit nervous at first – countless rock gigs later it would be strange to see it redone. But frankly, it works.

The General Store is now a chilled out, brightly coloured daytime hangout spot that would be my local cafe if I lived in the area.

The decor is incredibly welcoming, the mint green by the brown and gold makes the place incredibly lively and inviting – kind of like a set from Pushing Daisies. There’s something cosy and nostalgic about it. I personally love the new look (if you couldn’t already tell).

What. I can look dark and gloomy and still like bright cosy cafes shut up.

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Coffees and cafe treats dominate the menu, and in my opinion, should. As much as I love the fabulous staff and service, and can lounge in that decor all day, coffee and treats fare better than the cocktail menu.

We order an Electric Lemonade to start – a gin and sherbet tang cocktail with citrus. Love the look, an electric blue in a lightbulb! It is more of a hard lemonade though, which makes one ask what warrants the price tag.

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Geddit. Bauhaus. At the Garage. *fingerguns*

The General Store Patent Tonic comes pretty in pink – Bloom Gin, grapefruit, pomegranate, and mint. Once again, the spirit barely comes through, and the mint is overpowering, resulting in what is essentially a pink mojito.

The G, T & T seems a bit more promising: gin, green tea syrup and tonic. The green tea syrup is not particularly perceptible, so order a G&T instead.

The General Store Sour brings us bourbon, lemon juice and maple syrup. Finally, a drink that tastes like a cocktail! A traditional whiskey sour with a slightly sweeter bite.

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The cocktails down at The General Store are all undoubtedly pretty, but don’t particularly stand out. What does stand out is the beautiful design, chill atmosphere, and wonderful staff. There are great reasons to come here, but spend the money on cake instead.

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

The General Store @ The Garage, Islington

20-22 Highbury Crescent, Highbury East,
London N5 1RD

https://www.facebook.com/genstorelondon/

#EspressoMartiniMonth @ the Grind

Locations: Soho, Shoreditch, Holborn, London Bridge
Damage£

 

Weekend’s here!

Perking up and letting your hair down at the same time might look like a dilemma, but not this June 2015! Espresso Martini Month descending upon the various Grind café bars around London, in partnership with Merlet Cognac.

For all of June, the Grinds release four limited edition cognac cocktails that run at 5 pounds, and quite honestly, knocking its vodka-based brothers out of the shop.

Espresso Martini cocktail

The Merlet Brother’s Blend VSOP has a rich, light nose: apricots, vanilla, winter spice. The palate brings out those stone fruits, and goes fantastically with the newly launched Merlet C2 coffee liqueur.

The nose of the C2 is gorgeous, roasting beans and coffee, vanilla and cocoa, followed by the lighter scents from its cognac base. The palate brings out the very same flavours with bit of a spice kick, and something much like liquorice.

 

Together with sugar syrup and the Grind’s signature espresso, the limited edition Espresso Martini is a fresh change from the traditional vodka based drink, and brings out the fruit flavours of the spirits involved, and spreads out the notes in the coffee.

In short? That’s a pretty damn good Espresso Martini. And that’s coming from someone who isn’t a fan of Espresso Martinis in the first place. Smooth, rich, sweet, with a bite.

Espresso Martini cocktail

But that’s not all, the Grinds present two alternatives: a Vanilla, and an Orange Espresso Martini!

Using homemade (literally, right there in a saucepan on the stove), syrups, the Vanilla Espresso Martini is certainly the sweeter of the two, and with a powerful vanilla flavour, is built to be a dessert drink.

The Orange Espresso Martini, however, is much more subtle, and though does not scream ‘orange’, brings out the citrus flavours of the cognac with itself, providing a much lighter experience than the Vanilla.

 

As a Merlet bonus, the Grinds will also be serving up Sidecars (Merlet Brothers Blend Cognac, triple sec, lemon juice) with this month’s menu!

5 quid to make morning drinking and night coffees acceptable – it’s a small price to pay.

Check out the Grind locations below!

Bar Termini, Soho

Type of Bar: Tiny, Cafe, Italian
Damage£
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups, Coffee, Aperitifs

News about Bar Termini is spreading like wild fire. Probably because Marco Arrigo, and Tony Conigliaro (of ZTH (Click HERE) and 69 Colebrooke (Click HERE) fame) decided to open it without announcement or event – it retained a mystery that everyone wants in on.

Term pic

And what it is, is probably my next favourite study spot in Soho. A teeny tiny room with bar next door to the much more demanding-of-attention, La Bodega Negra, Bar Termini provides a pale blue, vintage Italian haven for coffee and cocktail fans. Inspired by Arrigo’s introduction of Illy coffee to London, and the many coffee shops that serve it in Soho, Termini serves up Italian classics in a chilled out space.

Firstly with coffee, true it a tiny bit pricier than your usual – espressos at 3 pounds, bicherins at 4 – they still impress. I honestly wasn’t expecting to enjoy Illy coffee as much as I enjoyed it here at Termini. With sides of pastries and mini-paninis, what’s not to love?

The Negroni Rosato

The Negroni Rosato

‘Mini’ might be a useful term here – the Negronis are positively miniscule, yet are incredible.

Three Negronis are presented: the Classico, Rosato, and Superiore. Each bottled (in their distinctive custom Art Deco bottles!) in advance, aged for up to three months – provide intense flavours, and surprisingly calm on the Campari (a result of aging).

The Classico provides a smooth Negroni experience, the Rosato and Superiore are infused with further ingredients:

The Superiore, my preferred of the three, is infused with pink peppercorns, to add a slight spiciness to it. It’s a bit subtle, and I certainly would prefer a more intense infusion, but spectacular as a Negroni – not too dry or sweet, subtle on the Campari, good roundedness from the vermouth. Excellent.

The Rosato can split the table depending on your appreciation of sweet drinks. Infused with rosebuds and rose water, this deep red Negroni brings forward a strong – but not sickly – rose to the cocktail. An interesting choice, rose and Negronis, but one that works. A bit sweet for me, but a wonderful drink overall – in this case, the small serving seems rational with the intense flavour.

The Marsala Martini

The Marsala Martini

The Marsala Martini: Beefeater gin, dry vermouth, marsala dolce and almond bitters, with an almond garnish stored in Champagne vinegar, salt and sugar. Oh my, this is strong. On first sip: a quintessential dry, dry Martini. Then the marsala dolce seeps in, leaving an empty ground for the almond bitters to shine. What a fantastic aperitif. The serving was a perfect size, took a while to take this one down. And the almond at the end? Sweet-sour, balsamic. An excellent twist on a Martini, served with crisp parmesan (as any marsala should).

Another exciting drink on the menu would be the Terroir, described as ‘Distillates of flint, clay and lichen’. Right. I was initially cautious, but I have always rested my faith in Tony, so went straight for it and was delighted by what I got. The Terroir is prepared by distilling the ‘grape’ flavours out of wine, leaving only the flavours presented by the terroir where the vines grew. However it is prepared, one must approach it like a new spirit unto itself. Beginning with a sourness at the back of the jaw, it moves forward with a mineral and surprisingly floral flavour – very reminiscent of sake. This is a drink I must recommend, especially for its uniqueness.

The custom Rosata bottle. Gorgeous.

The custom Rosata bottle. Gorgeous.

On a much more familiar note: A Bellini (Prosecco, peach puree, almond blossom) prepared so fresh, that even my normally bubbly-avoiding self enjoyed it. Finally, a good old Aperol Spritz (Beefeater gin, Aperol, prosecco) and rhubarb cordial. Hm, here is a drink I didn’t quite take to. Primarily because of the overpowering rhubarb cordial.

Service is excellent, no complaints. Very approachable, conversational staff dressed immaculately, all screaming Conigliaro’s personal specifications in uniform design.

The Bicherin

The Bicherin

In short, excellent list of cocktails for excellent prices. If any question regarding price can be raised, it would be the size of some of the cocktails (The Negronis and Bellini). In which case, my finger hovers over deciding the score regarding drinks. But the rest of the cocktails are sized accurately regarding their flavours. With excellent service, design, and attention to detail, Bar Termini is certainly a new spot in London that must be seen!

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

Bar Termini

7 Old Compton Street, Soho
London W1D 5JE.

http://www.bar-termini.com/