28 January 2014

Time Travellers Ball

A couple of weeks ago, J emailed me telling me that Yelp were putting on a free food and drink event at the Marriott Hotel in Grosvenor Square. He told me to RSVP sharpish, put it in my calendar and keep myself busy until the night came around.

Thursday came and after a very productive day at work (winning three jobs that day) we headed out for some half price cocktails at Barrio Central. A few 'Papa Don't Preach'es, some nachos and calamari later, J and I left my work pals and headed over to the venue.

I'd only heard of a few of the places that had set up shop inside The Time Travellers Ball (no relation to Doctor Who or Audrey Niffenegger) so we made a great effort (read: several circuits of the room sampling everything we could) to get to know what was on offer. I came away laden with business cards and promises of more treats but have summarised my favourites below.

Harry Brompton's Alcoholic Iced Tea
My favourite first, this brand has well and truly won me over. I'm not an iced tea fan at all but couldn't resist giving this alcoholic (4%) version a go. Sweet but nowhere near the saccharine sugariness of Lipton, it combines Kenyan tea, with citrus and grain spirit to produce this refreshing and very moreish little drink. Served in sturdy glass bottles and versatile enough to be used in some great sounding cocktails, this is definitely a firm favourite that I'll keeping my eye out for. Founder Ian's a great guy too.

With some of the finest packaging around, Rococo is one of London's favourite chocolatiers. Ethically sourced, their chocolate is utterly melt in the mouth and full of flavour - the only downside? Their three London stores are all achingly the other side of London but at least they're stocked all over. On offer at the Ball were nibs of their rose and violet chocolate (their creams are the best), 'potato pralines' - nutty chocolate encased in a hard sugar shell - and quails eggs, and even bits of their bars. I practically had to drag myself away from this stall because after all, chocolate is a girl's one true love.

Bea's of Bloomsbury
The ever-popular cupcake trend looks to be sticking around for a while if these badboys from Bea's in Bloomsbury are anything to go by. Quaint little cakes topped with the naughtiest of niceties, I had to resist stuffing one of every flavour in my bag. With flavours like Key Lime, Chocolate Peanut Butter and Rum Truffle Bea's caters to adult tastes as well as your childish craving for chocolate fudge. Apparently they also have cafes, can make cakes to order and rustle up a great afternoon tea. These guys will definitely be giving Hummingbird and Lola's a run for their money.

Roti Chai
Formerly a street kitchen and now a dining room, Roti Chai was brimming with activity. They were serving up two of their 'rail and road' dishes - pulusu chicken with steamed rice, and shahi veg pulao which were going down an absolute storm. But what really got me going was their alcoholic mango chai drink that was spiced with cardamom for this really aromatic little refresher. Serving up roadside realness, these guys and their flavours really impressed me.

And last but not least, one of the most well-known craft beers in London's bars. Set up in 2007, these guys have been paving the way for small breweries. Their free bottles of delicious Californian Pale Ale went in a blink but not before we'd managed to come away with a couple of glasses of the delicious nectar. The guys and girls working the stall were really friendly and knowledgeable, happy to chat and wax lyrical about their boozy beers. As I left they thrust the Brewdog Beer School in my hand. The opening pages? 'This is no boring manual. Welcome to our punk rock guide to brewing hardcore craft beers. The beer scene is sick, and we are the f**king Doctor'. Quite.

The room was full of new and known brands - we definitely paid a few visits to the Jameson stall, for example - so it was a great way of discovering some new places in town. Halfway through the night I realised that my friend Tim was the PR hosting the event so we ended up all heading next door to The Barley Mow next door, and dancing the night away at a club unknown until the early hours. Now that's what I call discovery.

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