68 and Boston, Soho

Type of Bar: Wine
Damage££ – ££££
Ideal For: Date, Small Groups, Wine

 

You’ve probably seen it, you can’t miss it – Soho has welcomed in the new 68 and Boston!

Right beside Bo Drake on Greek Street, 68 and Boston boasts two floors with two completely different personalities. Downstairs at 68, the slick red bar is devoted to affordable wines coming in at £20 a bottle – pretty reasonable in this part of town.

Upstairs at cocktail bar Boston, much like the gilded decor outside, glitters gold with an old fashioned style twisted into modern form, hardwood, sophisticated cerulean walls and gold spread across the slightly labyrinthine venue. The design will immediately strike a Londoner as odd – it’s like someone wedged a City bar into Soho, almost as peculiar and someone wedging Street Feast into Guildhall.

Not detracting from the venue itself being beautiful, no – it’s gorgeous. Of course, your mileage may vary on the matter, our table found it all rather odd and slightly forced. If you are looking for a City bar in Soho’s lively surrounds, though, this would be the spot!

68 and Boston Cocktail Bar London Soho

As for the bar, there are some big names involved – President of the UK Bartender’s Guild, Luca Cordiglieri designs along with head bartender, Josh Powell – and the menu reflects that.

2015-2016’s latest trends are immediately visible: more use of wines as vermouths and sherries, longer, lighter serves overall. Before the review, I must point out that this being being a launch, for the staff’s convenience for all the quick rounds of drinks being knocked out one after the other, a restricted menu of 5 cocktails were being served. These are the five reviewed.

68 and Boston Cocktail Bar London Soho

L-R: Loud Tempests, and the Squid Ink Martini

A firm favourite and easily the winning drink of the night really went in for the kill in it’s trendiness. The Loud Tempests mixes Lagavulin with samphire-infused White Port, Benedictine and Abbott’s Bitters. Well balanced, the loud peat of the Lagavulin is toned down, it’s sweetness coming in alongside the powerful samphire, which I’d argue dominates the cocktail. A finish of smoky vanilla, anise and herbs lingers. Relaxed, not attempting too much, the cocktail impresses.

The Dazed & Confused rides well with the smoothness of the Absolut Elyx vodka, and bright citrus bitters. This Martini is brought to life by the cardamom infused Cocchi Americano vermouth. Mind you, this is for those who truly not just tolerate, not just enjoy, but relish and delight in cardamom. It’s strong, and it’s not trying to hide it. Personally, it could do with relaxing on that front. A wash of cardamom is welcome, a kick in the teeth with it is another. As long as you enjoy cardamom, this is a novel twist on the vodka Martini.

68 and Boston Cocktail Bar London Soho

L-R: Dazed & Confused, and the Peace Offering.

The next two drinks are ambitious, and the Hoodooist loves their ideas. However, they cocktails have underestimate the strength dry sherries can exert over other flavours in the drink.

The Squid Ink Martini is better off of the two, with a short list: Tanqueray gin, En Rama Fino sherry, squid ink. The first sip is a briny bite of sea salt from the ink, followed by powerful Fino sherry. If you enjoy Fino, you will enjoy the Squid Ink Martini. Or you could drink Fino sherry. Maybe with salt. Enigmatic and enticing presentation, though.

The Trader faces a similar dilemma. Bacardi 8yr, Vanilla and Coffee infused Bacardi Carta Blanca, Amontillado sherry, Triple Sec, lime and pineapple juice, sugar syrup. For a drink with that many ingredients, it all gets lost in a mass of sugar and Amontillado with some pineapple juice.

68 and Boston Cocktail Bar London Soho

Finally, the Peace Offering was anything but. Olmeca Reposado, Cocchi Torino vermouth, Tempranillo, Agave, unfortunately did not work. The table of seven all rejected it. Like many City bars, Boston appeals in extremes of flavour.

We had an enjoyable Merlot and Pinot Grigio downstairs at the 68 wine bar, though. So there are ups to this venue, just downstairs.

68 and Boston Cocktail Bar London Soho
There are some wonderful ideas here that have a tendency to overkill – luckily, overkill is something easily dealt with with a tweak. Perhaps in our excitement for novelty, it is possible to rush headlong into trends, and overdo some of them, as seen with the powerful sherry flavours dominating entire drinks. At the price these drinks are coming at, though, one would rather wait to see the very possible and easily made changes before shelling out 10-16 pounds for one.

Some big talent here I’m wishing the best to!

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

 

68 and Boston

4-5 Greek Street, Soho,
London, W1D 4DD. 

http://www.68andboston.com/

Big Fernand, Fitzrovia

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, French
Damage££
Ideal for: Wine, Food, Burgers

 

Okay. I really don’t want to tell anyone else how wonderful this Big Fernand is.

Though, yes, the Hoodooist tends to primarily review bars, it is hard to pass up talking about what is quickly becoming his favourite burger joint in London (outside Le Bun, but that’s another story, click HERE for a Le Bun review!)

Crossing the channel, the Parisian burger venture brings with it a wonderful selection of French wines, cheeses, savoir faire – and let’s not forget, hamburgés.

Downstairs, black is accented with wooden features down an aisle with its six-person burger assembly line from counter to server, decorated with classic French signage and exposed bulb lighting. Upstairs, the Hoodooist’s dream studio, a floral dining room, with vintage portraits and focal point fireplace surround a dining table perfect for an event. I could move right in tomorrow if I could.

Big Fernand London burgers

With meat cooked all the way from blue rare to well done – and we mean French blue rare, no kidding around here – burgers utilise beef, veal, lamb, chicken and a vegetarian option. And other than the carefully constructed 6 on-menu choices, diners get a ‘build a burger’ option to design their own.  With a selection of various sauces and several herbs, the cheeses make some of the most exciting choices from farmhouse goat cheese, herbal Tomme de Savoie, sweet blue Fourme d’Ambert to the quintessential oozy Raclette.

Big Fernand London burgers

Beginning with the slightly formidable Le Bartholomé, beef meets Raclette, bacon, carmelised onions, chives, and topped with home-made barbecue and cocktail sauce. A hefty beast, the Bartholomé came cooked to a medium-rare perfection, oozing with the softly-sweet Raclette and the sauces that seem to complement each other so surprisingly well – and with that subtle kick of the chives. The Bartholomé finds a way to take a classic, and stick to a classic formula, while twisting it with new flavours to give us a continental take on a gourmet bacon burger.

 

And because one wasn’t enough (even with a side of perfectly seasoned spiced fries) – Le Victor enters the arena, the rose veal topped with blue Fourme d’Ambert cheese, caramelised onions, coriander and home-made sweet mayonnaise. Corianderphobes do not panic – the herb doesn’t scream at you, but nudges lightly under the burger’s sweeter ingredients. An excellent approach to a veal burger (and that cheese!).

 Big Fernand London burgers

And to go with the concluding cheese plates, the wines, supplied by Michel Chapoutier, included the house red Marius, and the Petite Ruche 2012.

The Marius is a bold wine, a Grenache/Syrah, the nose is almost intimidating. The palate is powerful, a complex array of spiciness, berries and a certain darkness, balanced lightly by the floral Grenache. Not necessarily the Hoodooist’s favourite, especially when the beautiful Petite Ruche is on offer.

The Petite Ruche 2012 is built to be served with meat. Unmistakably Rhone, chewy and dry with fabulous full body. A palate of ripe red berries and cassis, with overlaps of spice and pepper, and something drier, perhaps tobacco. Almost deceptively easy to drink, I can’t imagine dining here without a bottle of the Ruche on the table.

Big Fernand London burgers cheese

Service is absolutely wonderful. Downstairs, the several Fernands walk you through the process on the assembly line where you collect your burgers, and upstairs, they make delightful hosts – your glasses are always full, and so are your bellies – chances are, you’ll go for a second hamburgé before the night’s out.

I mean, how can you help yourself?

 

Drinks: ****
Food: *****
Atmosphere: Downstairs: ***, Upstairs: *****
Service: *****

 

Big Fernand

19 Percy Street, Fitzrovia,
London, W1T 1DY

http://www.bigfernand.co.uk

Winter 2014 Mega-Post!

Here it is! The obligatory Winter MEGA POST!

It’s December, and we all need something to perk us up with the obscenely cold weather London’s been having. So the Hoodooist thought, hey, what the hell, let’s cover some of the best winter themes London has to offer in bars, winter pop-ups, cocktail recipes and gift ideas!

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Bars with Festive Cocktails

For a pretty traditionally festive drink, try Thank F**k It’s Buttered by Loves Company (Click HERE for full review): A spiced hot buttered rum (butter-washed Zacapa 23) with lemon and cloves. Absolutely excellent. Tackle it on an empty stomach this, this is a heavy drink.

Got to recommend BUMP Caves (Click HERE for full review) – all done up in Christmas lights and a beautiful tree – for a Flip Out: Bourbon, Port, Amaro and Fino Sherry; slightly herbal, heavy and sweet, with a nice kick from the bourbon.

On the other hand, maybe something way less traditional? Agaveria El Nivel’s (Click HERE for full review) winter drink, the El Funibundo, let’s you choose your own tequila, with winter berries, pomegranate and hibiscus. Fruity and seasonal, with a twist.

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Gaucho Broadgate's Winter Terrace

Gaucho Broadgate’s Winter Terrace

 

Winter Pop-Ups

Another option? Take advantage of the loads of winter terraces and chalet pop ups sprouting around London this season.

The Gaucho Broadgate Winter Terrace (Click HERE for full review) is one of my favourite winter pop ups this season with a spectacularly warm outdoor area, cosy with heat lamps, hot water bottles and blankets galore. Hot Smoked Apple; Belvedere Vodka, fresh pressed apple juice, a touch of Ardbeg 10 yr, and a cinnamon rim. Hot apple and cinnamon is always a good winter warmer, the vodka giving it the right alcohol content and that warmth of the whiskey is just right to not overpower.

The Lodge d’Argent chalet pop up at the Coq d’Argent in City takes pride Hennessy Cognac cocktails, or neat Hennessy with cigar pairings. Going all out with the chalet theme makes the Lodge a great spot to relax with a complex Romeo y Julieta De-Luxe to smoke, paired with Hennessy Paradis Cognac.

The tented Nordic wonderland from last year is back! WigWamBam at the Queen of Hoxton is a much more informal chill-out zone serving a variety of hot drinks, from mulled wines to hot toddies, eventually breaking out the massive BBQ in the middle of the tent for massive meals. Get here early as it opens, before the crowd fills out the entire space.

Finally, why not pop by the Floridita Rum Chalet pop up (Click HERE for full review) for a Ski Break: rich, dark hot chocolate, with Plantation 5yr and cinnamon. Warm, slightly spicy, slightly bitter, slightly sweet, all indulgent. A very short drink in a teacup – but that’s all you need, this is a very heavy drink.

 

Floridita's Ski Break

Floridita’s Ski Break

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Cocktails at Home

But hey, it’s cold. Maybe you’d rather stay in and assault that liquor cabinet and knock something up for yourself. And let’s face it, mulling wine can be *such* a process. Cocktails this year, kids.

An easily prepared drink that the Hoodooist particularly enjoys is a Vermouth Sour and twist. You want the Antica Formula Carpano red vermouth for this – wonderfully festive with intense flavours of orange peel and marmalade, winter spices and some warming oaky woodiness. A long, dry finish of cherries, a tannic red wine, date-sugariness and bitter oranges makes it a great choice for aperitif before a big winter dinner.

Antica Formula Carpano Vermouth

Antica Formula Carpano Vermouth

The Hoodooist’s Winter Sour

Ingredients:

50 mls Antica Formula Carpano Vermouth
20 mls Fresh Lemon Juice
20 mls Simple Syrup
Garnish: Twist of Orange peel

Method:
Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice.
Shake, and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.
Garnish with orange peel.

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Who wants to add a little Parisian chic to their Winter? If so, check out the wonderful European Ambassador of Grand Marnier, Julien LaFond’s recipe for:

The French Artist

The French Artist

The French Artist

Ingredients:
30ml GRAND MARNIER® Cordon Rouge
15ml VSOP Cognac
15ml French Dry Vermouth
20ml Freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
20ml Homemade Redcurrant & Vanilla Syrup (or Grenadine Syrup)
20ml Egg White
Garnish: Redcurrants coated with icing sugar

Method:
Pour all ingredients into a shaker
Dry shake (Shake without ice), to create the emulsion
Add some cubed ice and shake vigorously
Double strain into a coupette glass and add the garnish

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But hey, maybe you want something surprising. The Hoodooist greatly enjoys a Scandinavian winter, and definitely a Scandinavian Christmas – and one can hardly go wrong with Tanqueray No. 10 anyway. Bring a bit of Sweden into your home with dill in Gareth Evans’ (WORLD CLASS™ UK Winner and bar manager of City Social, Click HERE for full review) Scandinavian Martini:

Dill or No Dill

Dill or No Dill

DILL OR NO DILL

Ingredients:
50ml Tanqueray No. TEN Gin
15ml Elderflower syrup
10ml Fresh lemon juice
30ml Cucumber water
2 Sprigs of dill
1 Pinch of smoked salt

Method:
Place all ingredients into a chilled shaker and shake.
Fine strain into a coupette.
Garnish with sprig of dill pegged to the glass

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And finally, for something a little weirder by Matthew Armitage of the Craft Cocktail Co. @ Grotto Outre, Shoreditch.

The Mince Pie Martini

The Mince Pie Martini

The Mince Pie Martini

Ingredients:
50ml minced meat mix infused vodka
1 teaspoon of apricot jam
1 teaspoon of Mirabelle plum jam
25ml Lemon Juice
15ml Sugar Syrup (1 part caster sugar: 1 part water)
Garnish: Lemon twist

 

Method for making Minced Meat Infused Vodka:

Place 100g minced meat mix in a sealed container with 1 bottle of vodka. Leave to infuse for a week. Strain through a sieve to remove the larger pieces and then through a coffee filter to remove the small pieces. Once it’s strained pour back into the vodka bottle. Ready when you need it.

Method for Mince Pie Martini:

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Add cubed ice and shake. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

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Gift Ideas; PRESENTS, SUCH PRESENTS

T’is the season TO BE SHOWERED WITH GIFTS.

You can’t make the drinks above with a decent cocktail set, can ya? And if you’re gonna make ‘em, might as well do it with a little pizazz.

The cocktail obsessive craves a well-crafted cocktail set, and I can’t think of one that beats the Alexander & James Japanese Cocktail Set Christmas Gift Pack. This cocktail set is the epitome of luxurious bar wear and is the ultimate gift for cocktail aficionados.

A&J Japanese Cocktail Set Christmas Gift Pack

A&J Japanese Cocktail Set Christmas Gift Pack

Inside this set:

1 x Usagi Heavyweight Cobbler Shaker
1 x Natural Wood Muddler
1 x Premium Julep Strainer
1 x Copper measure
1 x Teardrop Barspoon
1 x Seamless Paddle Mixing Glass

This little piece of heaven is available from Alexander & James priced at £180.00.

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Grand Marnier Limited Edition

Grand Marnier Limited Edition

Grand Marnier’s Cognac-based orange deliciousness is a perfect winter liqueur that can be added to any hot chocolate for a bit of spice. And their limited edition Parisian ‘Marinière’ bottle celebrates the coming of Christmas with a striped Breton design worn by sailors and popularised by Coco Chanel. Modern and playful, the couture style label looks showcases the rich history of the brand through the family crest, while the blue, white and red striped ribbon that runs around the uniquely shaped bottle reinforces Grand Marnier’s home place – in the heart of France.

This annual treat is available from luxury retailer Harvey Nichols, London priced at £26.05 for a 70cl bottle.

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Kindzmarauli Wine

Kindzmarauli Wine

And finally, if wine’s more your thing – skip the predictable Marsala for something more unique. The Hoodooist’s personal choice is the sweeter, beautifully dark, purple-red Kindzmarauli wine from Georgia. Made with Saperavi grapes; this soft, rounded and sticky (and lip-colouring!) wine is an excellent pair with cheeses and rich Christmassy cakes. Notes of damson jam, berries, spice and soft tannins.

Prices vary amongst wine stores, but can be purchased at Hedonism Wines for about £13.00 for a bottle.

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WHEW. That was a long post. But winter comes with winter goodness that must be enjoyed!

So go forth and take advantage of the festive drinks at London’s bars and pop-ups, or make your own cocktails at home while you think of gifts for friends and family (or hell, yourself. It’s cold outside, you deserve it.)

Enjoy your Winter, London! And Happy AlcoHolidays!

 

Mission, Bethnal Green

Type of Bar: Wine Bar, Bar/Restaurant, Italian
Damage: Cocktails –£, Wine per glass: £-££
Ideal for: Wine, Food, Small Groups

Wine legends of Sager+Wilde are back with a new venture, Mission, presenting primarily Californian wine (by the glass, bottles from round the world) alongside (primarily) Italian cuisine.

Décor is simple, efficient, and fairly sparse – with the beautiful bar dominating the scene (although the palm tree, though channelling California, could be done without), and an excellent outdoor area.

Three Sip Martini

Three Sip Martini

To the important bits: Mission may primarily serve wine, but there is a short selection of (primarily aperitifs) classic cocktails at a shocking 4 pound 50. Though short, said cocktails were of spectacular quality that are difficult to rival. A Three Sip Martini, exactly what it sounds like, caught me by surprise since I certainly wasn’t expecting one made so well – considering what a snob I tend to be with them. Especially with Tanqueray, which isn’t usually my first choice.  The Rum Old Fashioned came enviably delicious, simple and effective, the highlight of the night’s drinks. A definite order.

Enormous Globe Artichoke and ‘Nduja Arancini put away, a fantastically crisp, peppery Californian Gruner Veltliner, and an Italian red blend entertained a main course of rabbit leg cooked to perfection with polenta, pancetta and girolles. The evening ends with a rather short list of desserts – but I couldn’t complain about the Dulce de Leche cheesecake with Master Obayashi’s Hijiri Hojicha – a roasted Okinawan tea, strongly tobacco and toffee – necessary to help with the overwhelming sweetness of the cake. Not to mention these guys certainly aren’t stiffing you on portion size.

Dulce de Leche cheesecake, with Hijiri Hojicha

Dulce de Leche cheesecake, with Hijiri Hojicha

Service was impeccably polite from beginning to finish, food and drink served with incredible swiftness. Unfortunately, on the more than one occasion the Hoodooist has visited, there have been errors on the bill and delays or confusions with orders. Nonetheless, it all gets sorted out, and certainly does not dilute the experience of wonderful food and drink.

Essentially, with cocktails – there often isn’t much one can add to elaborating on classics, but the delightfully dry gin Martini and rounded Rum Old Fashioned are worth coming down to Mission almost exclusively for – and what value for money! A cocktail, wine and tea for 15 pounds, I’m certainly not complaining.

Mission runs a soft launch till 14th Sept 2014(reservations only); opening on the 15th Sept.

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

 

Mission

250 Paradise Row,
London E2 9LE

http://www.missione2.com/