Bar Music Hall
Bar Music Hall on Curtain Road describes itself as the 'ultimate venue in East London where you can eat, drink, party and entertain all under one roof, whatever the occasion!' I once came here with some friends who were playing a gig (it has a designated stage area) and hadn't been back since - there's just something about that I tend to avoid. Inside, the area is sprawling and was pretty busy on a Friday night hosting 'The Three Belles' - a 40s/swing act that I was pretty uninterested in - but business was brisk and service was surprisingly quick. I had a couple of promotional cocktails (one elderflower based, another tea-based) and enjoyed them but I still don't think I'll be rushing back.
The Dragon Bar
I first discovered this place as part of a boozy Christmas work do a couple of years ago. Standing proudly on Shoreditch High Street (and Rivington Street), The Dragon (apparently no website) combines dark drapes and a gothic feel (upstairs) with more of a typical dive (downstairs). The DJ works his magic on the end of the concrete bar whilst the friendly bar staff wiggle about and patiently await your indecision. I've been twice in a week (seems to be bit of a pattern, doesn't it?) and there's been a totally different vibe each time - a buzzy, young late-Friday-night crowd compared to a more chilled, older out-for-a-bottle-of-wine gathering. The music's great and the prices aren't too high, and whilst probably not a go-to venue, it's worth diving in for one (or three) if you're in the area.
Oh Shampers, where do I start? My dad used to frequent (and still does) this wine bar when he was an ad-man before I was even a twinkle in an anybody's eye. Just off Carnarby Street, this bar is full of interesting characters, always busy and I never leave disappointed. The recommendations from stalwarts Simon and Rothman are stellar, and despite never knowing that Lebanon produced wine, we knew it'd be a good choice (Chateua Ksara 3eme Millenaire). I love that I'm 'continuing' somewhat of a family tradition and love that I'm always remembered as being 'the daughter'.
Following our Shampers escapades, we fancied some food and, having tried out the Borough branch, knew that the Soho site would be a winner. The menus differ by location so we had some new things to try - the seared scallops with cauliflower puree, truffle oil and crispy pancetta were particularly good, and the ox cheeks with red wine sauce and golden beetroot were so tender, I may even be a convert. With a mojito each and plenty of bread we stayed until we were the last diners - I think I'd eat tapas every day if I could.
Queen of Hoxton
The Queen is another multi-purpose venue, describing itself as a bar, club and art gallery - the 'ultimate youth club for adults of the east side'. Split over several floors, the basement houses the club, the ground floor the bar and gallery - all concrete floors, school desks and chairs and a ping pong table - whilst the rooftop (up five or six flights of stairs) is a wide open space with a hot kitchen and a bar serving rooftop-only cocktails. In the winter, they rigged up a giant wigwam to stave off the weather and now, it's a perfect open destination for when the sun decides to shine. At weekends they hold a Rooftop Film Club and they're announcing pop-up food events over the summer. I drank a 'Don't Go to Dalston' (from the downstairs bar) and mintless raspberry mojitos (they'd run out), after really fancying a Bloody Mary (but no tomato juice). Not too bad a place, I'd be keen to see what happens on boozy summer evenings but whilst fun, it's nothing too special just yet.