14 November 2014

Tanqueray Drawing Rooms

Step into Tanqueray’s Drawing Rooms at Six Fitzroy Square and you’d be mistaken for believing you’ve stepped back in time as men in braces and fedoras and women with feathers in their hair sweep past you into wood panelled rooms, or beckon you up the staircase. This is 1930s London and Tanqueray’s blossoming success following Prohibition over the pond is infectious.

It’s an intimate set up with male styling experts on hand to dress you for the occasion, whilst A sensual and silken-voiced songstress warms the room with smooth jazz. We made a beeline for the bar - keenly watching the talented mixologists upstairs whip up a frenzy (quite literally) and bring classic cocktails to life using the finest London gin. My favourite was the Lyle’s Lavender Collins, created by World Class UK Bartender of the Year 2012 Andy Mill. Combining lavender and camomile infused Tanqueray, Lyle’s golden syrup, lemon, egg white and soda, it’s aromatic with a kick that has you reaching for a second helping. Or fifth.

There was a vintage headpiece masterclass taking place behind us with masks, beads and feathers flying. Curated by the Indytute, it harked back to the tradition of party hosts providing guests with personalised gifts and tokens. We were a little more modern and spent some time dressing up in the #tonightwetanqueray photobooth - I’m now convinced I could rock a pipe.

We were led downstairs to the secret martini room for a Tanqueray tasting with the UK Brand Ambassador Tim. He explained how the four key ingredients (juniper, coriander, angelica root and liquorice) of their famous London Dry which was originally launched way back in 1830 all play a key part in the smell, taste and finish of the spirit. The baby brother, Tanqueray Ten, adds camomile to the mix. We, of course, had to put this to the test and demanded the martini master do his worst. A classic gin martini and a Venetian (Tanqueray Ten, peach liqueur, Riserva Carlo Alberto Bianco vermouth with grapefruit and peach bitters) later and we were sold. And the key point to take away? Martinis should always be stirred and never shaken - you’ve got it wrong, Mr Bond.

11 November 2014

Jones&Sons at Trip Kitchen

Haggerston: the No Man's Land between Shoreditch and Stoke Newington. More of a 'passing through' kind of place than a real destination, it's being snapped up by property developers as the next area to throw up luxury flats. The real charm though is under the railway arches and next to the canal. Tonkotsu East's cottoned on to this and it seems as if Jones&Sons have now too.

This is Jones&Sons' second outpost - the first being up the road in Dalston - and they've taken up residency in Trip Space, a cultural hangout where you can yoga one minute and hot desk the next. Ella, Ashley and I were invited down to check it out last week and were promised great British food in a contemporary setting.

We weren't disappointed. Initial impressions were welcoming - warm light glows from the glass frontage showcasing the exposed brickwork and bustling bar within - second impressions were slightly less so as it took quite a while for us to be acknowledged but we'll be generous and put it down to opening jitters.

Onto the food and drink. There's a nice selection of draught and bottled beer (although Ashley chose Estrella) but being a girl, I headed straight for the cocktail menu and went for an easy choice of the Joan Collins - a zesty combination of gin, elderflower, lemon and fizz, a sharp but sweet boozy lemonade. Ella went for something involving egg white - I realise that's a pretty exhaustive list of potential options but for someone who's previously steered clear of any with it in, I wasn't paying much attention. Having said that, it won me over. Success.

Then it was onto the food. Jones&Sons have forgone every date night dilemma of not choosing the most expensive dish on the menu by standardising the pricing - starters are all £7, mains £11, sides are 2 for £7. And desserts? Who cares how much they cost. We were spoilt for choice and could practically have eaten one of everything on offer but waistlines and professionalism considered, we decided to swap and share.

First up, my salmon tartare. Served with nice crisp toasts (more please though), the perfectly diced fish was achingly good. Clean flavours were complemented by dill and capers, and the slided cucumber haphazardly presented on top added a good bit of crunch. Ashley had the battered courgette flower with goats curd and tomato - I'm a total fiend for goats cheese and the classic combination of textures on the plate were pulled off well with the tart tomatoes cutting through the smooth, salty curd and the crisp batter. My only gripe would be that £7 seems a little steep for just one stem. Ella's grilled squid with morcilla and parsley crumb was stand out though; the tender seafood griddled rather than deep fried to maintain a nice bounce whilst the meaty sausage crumb added another level of flavour. This I'd order again. And again.

Onto the mains. Ashley and I both had the Butcher's steak with Bearnaise. More commonly known as 'Hanger steak', it's from the diaphragm of the cow and one of those cuts that are having a resurgence in popularity. I like my steaks so rare it's almost still mooing, this was cooked to perfection and served with the moreish Bearnaise for dipping. Ella went for the lamb belly with lentils and beetroot (and I failed to get a snap) but she declared it a masterpiece so further props right here. Beefing up our mains, we shared two sides between us - the mac and cheese, obviously (not bad), and the kale (underseasoned and a bit soggy) - and discussed whether the standardised pricing works for mains or not.

Of course, we had to continue with little needed but much wanted desserts - I went for the treacle tart with clotted cream and Ash and Ella went for the sticky toffee pudding with ice cream. Nicely executed, if widely varying in portion control, but I probably would have gone for something chocolatey or fruity given the opportunity seeing as I could now practically roll myself out of the restaurant.

Jones&Sons is a great little place that's unassuming, friendly and open all day so you can start and finish the day (in a food coma) in one laidback location. The staff are really friendly, if a little rushed off their feet when busy, but always on hand to persuade you that yes, you really do need that last bite of saccharine sweetness. Four out of five from me.

6 November 2014

The Bloody Mary Blitz

It used to be the last thing I'd ever order; I could think of nothing worse than tomato juice. But then I used to spend an inordinate amount of time making them for hungover customers when I worked in bars and I thought I'd give it a go. 

Vodka, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, lemon, pepper, celery salt and horseradish all topped up off with a glug of tomato juice and that crunchy stick of celery - it's transformed my weekends and I make a mean one if I do say so myself.

Given the plethora of perfect brunch places these days in town, I thought it only fitting to begin The Bloody Mary Blitz a quest to find the best Bloody Mary in town. So far, the ones at Pollen Street Social and Mark's Bar at Hix (although he actually serves up a Red Snapper, made with gin instead) are topping the tables but who else will compare?

5 November 2014

Shakespeare In Love

John Dryden once wrote:
'But Shakespeare's magic could not copied be; Within that circle none durst walk but he.'
And I'm inclined to agree. As most lovers of the English language will attest, Shakespeare is one of the greatest writers ever to have graced the pages of literature. Whether from his tragedies, his comedies, his tragicomedies (they exist) or his sonnets, practically everyone in the English-speaking world and beyond can quote at least a line of Shakespeare.

Mum and I have made it an annual thing to visit The Globe to watch a play. Last year it was A Midsummer Night's Dream, this year The Comedy of Errors. Next year? Well we're waiting for the schedule to be released but determined to get our Shakespeare fix, we booked Shakespeare in Love. Based on the Oscar-winning film (and written by the same guy too), it tells the fanciful story of Shakespeare, his friend and rival Kit Marlow and his love interest Viola de Lesseps as our hero attempts to pen his latest work and chase off the debt collectors. 

It's one of my favourite films so I had high hopes for the stage production (which has been extended into the New Year) and definitely wasn't disappointed. A faithful adaptation of the onscreen oeuvre, the cast were absolutely magical and brought the characters to life spectacularly, simultaneously bringing me to tears (that scene) then having me dissolving into laughter. I never wanted it to end and the interweaving of Shakespeare's sonnets and plays (in particular Romeo and Juliet) had me falling head over heels in love again with the playwright's poetry. 

Now, if only I could write something as beautiful...

31 October 2014

Le Bun at The Three Compasses

Burgers burgers, everywhere. London's love affair with all things Americana shows no sign of slowing down any time soon and it seems that every corner you turn, you'll find a rib shack, burger bar or BBQ rustling up buns of varying degrees of success. The Burger Awakening only struck me a year or so ago so I'm a little slow on the uptake of the various outlets but the only one on my list worth writing home about (and revisiting) is MeatMission. Until now.

Le Bun is stealing the show. Fresh from winning Sky and Samsung's Launching People and a two month residency at the Old Bengal Bar, Le Bun have taken over Dalston Pub The Three Compasses to offer fast food French-style. Last night was their launch party, and with the promise of great food, 50% off and killer tunes, it was suitably rammed.

With no time to lose, we did what four sensible people do when offered six options - order one of each and dive right in. I kicked off with the Le Bourguignon Bun (I was swayed by the promise of bacon salt, champagne slaw and truffle mayo) and practically inhaled it, it was so good. The slow-cooked meat was deliciously melt in the mouth with a great depth of flavour from the glaze; crunchy cabbage slaw added that bit of tang and the saltiness from the bacon and truffle rounded everything off. The rest of the team didn't even get a look in.

Le Duck Frites Bun was equally as sumptuous with crispy straw fries packed straight into the bun, whilst Le Chevre managed to serve up a whole wedge of oozing goats cheese, topped with that biting crunchy slaw for good measure. Le Royale With Cheese sold out pretty sharpish and passed the boys' meat test (ie. plenty of it) and this time, I was the one who missed out.

We didn't stop there. After catching up with the brains behind Le Bun (Tim Talbot and Andy Taylor) we just couldn't resist even more food. So out came three sliders and Le French Onion Dog - the first three were 'down in one' affairs (see the boys about to get stuck in) and the dog we shared, all grinning beatifically. Also, who fries parsley? It's genius!

These guys have got the burger thing down, I'm a total convert. They're sticking with The Three Compasses for a while and are also running Taco Tuesdays (self explanatory, right?), Steak Frites nights on Wednesdays complete with Red Wine Roulette and a toasty winter garden to wrap up in. Whilst you're out there, try one of the crazily moreish winter warmers from Kamm & Sons - I fell in love with the Hot Roots so have one for me.

Le Bun, I salute you. Cinq out of cinq. Bravo.

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