Category Archives: Bars

Madison London review: Cosy up with hot cocktails and great views at The Chalet winter terrace

© Madison rooftop
At this time of year, a rooftop bar isn’t always a natural choice for a night out. However, this season, City of London drinking destination Madison have given their terrace a winter makeover. Their outdoor space has been turned into an enticing, cosy festive hideout, with a special winter drinks menu of hot aperitifs.

© Madison Vin Brule

A Vin Brule (Italian Mulled Wine)

Last week, I went along with a friend to check out Madison’s new seasonal menu and to try their winter warmers. Madison is a restaurant and bar spanning the top floor of the One New Change complex and boasts amazing views of neighbouring St Paul’s Cathedral and the capital skyline. I’ve previously visited the bar for summer alfresco drinks and have always enjoyed their cocktails so was looking forward to seeing what they could do with the changing season.

The night of our visit was pretty cold, but fortunately Madison are well prepared with patio heaters and cosy faux fur and tartan blankets to snuggle up under. Their rooftop space features a series of alpine-inspired chalets with twinkling lights, which really gives it a Christmassy atmosphere.

As well as their usual wine and cocktail list, Madison’s bartenders have curated a special Hot Aperitifs menu featuring a selection of six warm cocktails. My friend and I both have a sweet tooth so the Chocolate Delight (Bulleit Whisky, chocolate and salted caramel) seemed like a good place to start. There was just a hint of the whisky’s smokiness, but it was predominantly sweet. The cocktail did remind me of a boozy hot chocolate and was very easy to drink. As a regular gin connoisseur, I also couldn’t resist trying the Aromatic Genever (Gin and green apple), which was pretty strong with a hint of fruitiness. Meanwhile, my friend went for a more traditional Christmas drink – a Vin Brule (Italian Mulled Wine), which she really enjoyed.

Aside from our hot concoctions, we also ordered a sharing platter from the bar menu. We ate a selection of warm snacks, including tallegio and walnut arancini (my personal favourite), buttermilk chicken, sautéed mini chorizo sausage and smoked tomato hummus with seeded crackers. There was a good, tasty variety of food and the selection was a great accompaniment for a cocktail session.

Overall, we had a great evening. The service was friendly and attentive, while the atmosphere was very festive. Despite the cool outside temperature, we felt very cosy during our few hours on the roof thanks to the heaters and blankets. The cocktail menu had something for everyone’s tastes, although I particularly loved the Chocolate Delight, which really lived up to its name. I’ll definitely be returning for some Christmas drinks.

  • Madison (rooftop terrace), 1 New Change, City of London, EC4M 9AF. Nearest station: St Paul’s. The rooftop terrace chalets is open from 7 November 2018 – 28 February 2019. Open daily 4pm until late. To book a chalet, contact the Madison London events team on madisonevents@danddlondon.com . For more information, visit the Madison London website.

© Madison rooftop cocktails

For a guide to London’s Christmas pop-ups and festive cocktails, click here.

For more of Metro Girl’s bar reviews, click here.

Madison Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Where to find some Christmas cheer – guide to London’s festive pop-ups and Christmas cocktails

Christmas is fast approaching and there’s a host of festive pop-ups opening around London. Here’s a guide to the capital’s Christmassy bars and terraces, as well as some of the seasonal cocktails on offer at some of the regular bars.

Around the capital, a host of festive experiences are popping up around the capital. A host of London’s top bars have curated special festive cocktail menus. From Christmas pop-up bars and cosy terraces to winter wonderlands, here’s the best places to have festive fun.

Christmas cocktails

Many London bars and restaurants have created special festive cocktails for the Christmas period, available for a limited time only. Here’s some of London’s top Christmas concoctions.

© One Aldwych Lobby Bar

Christmas Showtime cocktails at the One Aldwych Lobby Bar

  • The Lobby Bar @ One Aldwych

The Lobby Bar at the luxury One Aldwych hotel has created five Christmas cocktails to sip while looking at their 25ft amazing Snow Dome Christmas Tree. Father Negroni (Beefeater 24 gin, Cinnamon Campari and Antica Formula); Jungle Bells (Havana Club 7, Angostura Reduction, Lime Juice, Sugar Syrup and Crème Des Prunelles); Mulled Berries (Tequila Altos Silver, Mulled Wine, Agave Syrup, Lime Juice and Pedrino Tonic); Rose Stardust (Absolut Elix, Raspberry and Rose Shrub, Orange Juice, Disaronno Amaretto, Grapefruit Juice and Rose Lemonade); and Warm Gift (Maker’s Mark, Double Cream, Mozart Dark Chocolate, Vanilla Syrup, Pedro Ximénez, Frangelico, Vanilla Bitters and Tabasco).

– One Aldwych, 1 Aldwych, Covent Garden, WC2B 4BZ. Nearest stations: Covent Garden or Temple. For more information, visit the One Aldwych website.

© The Little Blue Door

Christmas cocktails at The Little Blue Door

  • The Little Blue Door

‘The Flatmates’ are hosting festive feasts throughout December with a host of cocktail specials. Featuring the Mince Pie Martinis served with mini mince pies and EggNog Whiskey Flips with Grated Nutmeg. Check out Metro Girl’s review on The Little Blue Door.

– The Little Blue Door, 871-873 Fulham Road, Fulham, SW6 5HP. Nearest station: Parsons Green. For more information, visit the The Little Blue Door website.

  • Dirty Martini

The sleek bar chain has created a special festive menu, available at its seven central London locations. Includes The Bellringer (Amaretto Disaronno, cranberry juice, blood orange syrup, topped with Prosecco); Grinch’s Espresso Martini (Absolut Vodka, Kahlua, DM Homemade Christmas Syrup, Fresh Espresso, Chocolate Bitters, Gingerbread Foam); and Santa’s Punch (Ketel One Oranje Vodka, Bold Liqueur, Pimento Dram, DM Homemade Xmas Syrup. Fresh Pomegranate Juice, Lime Juice, Orange Bitters). All £9.50.

Dirty Martini, branches at Bishopsgate, Covent Garden, Hanover Square, Islington, Minories, Monument and St Paul’s.

© Dirty Martini Christmas Cocktails 2018

Dirty Martini have created three Christmas cocktails (L-R) Santa’s Punch, The Bellringer and Grinch’s Espresso Martini

  • Bōkan

Dockside restaurant and bar Bōkan have created a special festive drink to enjoy along with the views of the City. The Hot Mulled Sloe cocktail incorporates Sipsmith gin, spice mulled cloudy apple juice and a slice of orange. £9.

– Bōkan, (Floor 37-39), 40 Marsh Wall, Canary Wharf, E14 9TP. Nearest station: Canary Wharf. For more information, visit the Bokan website.

  • Cantina Laredo

Mexican restaurant Cantina Laredo has created a quirky festive cocktail – Brussel Sprout infused margaritas – to accompany their ultimate festive feasting menus.

– Cantina Laredo, 10 Upper St Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden, WC2H 9FB. Nearest station: Covent Garden or Leicester Square. For more information, visit Cantina Laredo’s website.

© Cantina Laredo

Brussel Sprout infused margaritas at Cantina Laredo


Winter pop-ups

There’s a host of Christmas pop-ups in London this season. Expect plenty of hot booze, comfort food, fake snow, Christmas trees and sparkling lights.

  • 6 November – 24 December : The Winter Forest

Seasonal pop-up returns to Broadgate Circle in the City of London. Featuring 300 snow-covered pine trees, twinkling lights, cosy wood cabins, live music, festive quiz nights (Mons), craft classes, Father Christmas, art exhibition and plenty of hot food and drink. Free.

– Broadgate Circle, Broadgate, EC2. Nearest station: Liverpool Street. For more information, visit The Broadgate websiteRead the rest of this entry

Rinkside drinking and dining at London’s first curling bar and diner the Sin Bin @ Queens

© Queens Sin Bin

The Sin Bin is a new rinkside drinking and dining space at Queens

QUEENS Skate Dine Bowl has added a new attraction to its versatile venue – a rinkside bar and diner. The Sin Bin offers beers, cocktails and burgers just moments from the action on the ice. What’s special about QUEENS is that you can do more than ice skating on its indoor rink – it also offers opportunities to play ice hockey or go ice karting or curling.

Queens Sin Bin cocktails © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

A St Lawrence (left) and Silver Angel (right) cocktails

I went along to the launch last week to try the Sin Bin’s cocktails and burgers and make my second attempt at curling. Despite being rinkside, the bar is thankfully lovely and cosy with heaters warming you up after you’ve been chilling on the ice. The long, slender space has a dive bar vibe with plenty of seating, including many stools looking out on the rink. The rinkside setting means people who don’t feel confident on the ice can watch their companions in action from a more comfortable, non-slip space.

When it came to drinks, we decided on cocktails from their menu of creative originals, mostly reasonably priced around the £7.50-£8.50 mark. I tried a lovely, sweet Silver Angel (Finlandia vodka with peach and passion fruit topped with fizz), while my boyfriend opted for a St Lawrence (Woodford Reserve with maple syrup, lemon juice and a dash of bitters). I continued the vodka theme with a Henrietta Fizz (Grey Goose Poire vodka with pear, strawberry and fresh lemon topped with fizz), which was deliciously light, something that would make a great aperitif.

Queens Sin Bin curling © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Try a spot of curling for something different

The food menu is from MEATliquor, who have already established a diner at QUEENS. MEATliquor’s full menu is available to Sin Bin diners, including popular favourites, Hot Mess (hash browns with blue cheese sauce, jalapenos, buffalo sauce and pickles), deep-friend mac ‘n’ cheese, and chicken wings. During our visit, my boyfriend and I had the cheeseburger (beef patty, cheese, red onions, pickles, lettuce, French’s mustard and ketchup) and the halloumi and mushroom burger (halloumi, mushroom, red onions, pickles, lettuce, French’s mustard and ketchup) respectively. When it comes to food of a ‘fast’ nature, I don’t always have high expectations, however we agreed our burgers were really tasty and I could have easily eaten a second. Our burgers were accompanied by some delicious Cajun fries, with the seasoning really giving them an extra something.

During the evening, we stepped on to the ice for a spot of curling. I had tried it a year ago and was pretty bad. However, this year the shoe grips were slightly different and I felt a bit more stable on the ice. This time, we also had access to brooms as well as the curling stones. We were given instructions by experienced curlers and managed to pull off a pretty good game for a bunch of amateurs. It was a lot of fun and definitely offers something a bit different to your usual night out with a group of friends.

As well as the various ice activities, MEATliquor and the Sin Bin, QUEENS also has a bowling alley and arcade. There’s currently plans to expand the site further with five private bowling lanes, the Liquor Lanes, in the near future.

  • The Sin Bin @ Queens, 17 Queensway, W2 4PQ. Nearest station: Queensway or Bayswater. Open Sun-Thu 12pm-11pm, Fri-Sat 12pm-12am. For more information and booking, visit the Queens website.
Queens Sin Bin curling © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Queens provide grips to put on your shoes so you can walk on ice

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Guide to what’s on in London this Halloween 2018

Halloween pumpkin © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018The arrival of autumn means darker, colder nights and the coming of Halloween. Although traditionally just one night, there tends to be days, or sometimes weeks, of spooky celebrations. over the October period, sometimes creeping into early November. As it coincides with half-term, there’s some Halloween themed daytime fun on offer for children. However, when it comes to the nights, there a range of activities for those who want to celebrate – from simple film screenings or immersive, fancy dress parties.

For a guide to what’s else is on in London in October, click here.

Here’s Metro Girl’s guide to the best Halloween events and parties on around London this October:

Daytime jitters

  • 1 – 31 October : Screamfest @ London Dungeon

Special Halloween event at the London Dungeon, featuring 20 spooky tales, two rides and a Jack the Ripper show. Tickets from £27 (online), £31 (on the door). London Dungeon, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB. Nearest station: Waterloo or Embankment. For more information and booking, visit the London Dungeon website. For Metro Girl’s review of the London Dungeon, click here.

  • 20 – 27 October : Spookfest @ London Museum of Water & Steam

Learn the secret history of the engine houses, enjoy a ride on the ghost train, a trip through the creepy wood and Halloween craft activities. Tickets: adults £12.50, children £5.50 (10% discount for children’s in Halloween costume). London Museum of Water & Steam, Kew Bridge Road, Brentford, TW8 0EF. Nearest station: Kew Bridge. For more information, visit the London Museum of Water & Steam website.

  • 20 – 28 October : Gruesome Nature Live @ London Zoo

A week of fiendish fun at London Zoo, featuring interactive musical show. Open 10am-5pm. Activities are free with entry to zoo. Entrance tickets: Adults £24.50, Child £18.00 (cheaper online). London Zoo, Regent’s Park, Marylebone, NW1 4RY. Nearest station: Regent’s Park or Camden Town. For booking, visit the ZSL website.

  • 20 – 31 October : Ascarium @ London Aquarium

A spooky adventure at Sea Life London with the Sea Witch asking visitors to help unlock her treasure chest. Tickets start from £21 (online), £26 (on the day). Sea Life London Aquarium, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, South Bank, SE1 7PB. Nearest station: Waterloo. For more information, visit the Sea Life website.

  • 22 – 30 October : Wizard and Witch Woodland Walk @ Strawberry Hill

A spooky walk for little wizards and witches and their families, then cast a spell in the ‘cauldron room’ and hear a spooky story. Times: 4pm-5pm (4-6yrs), 5.30pm-6.30pm (7-10yrs). Tickets: £8. Strawberry Hill, 268 Waldegrave Road, Twickenham, TW1 4ST. Nearest station: Strawberry Hill. For more information, visit the Strawberry Hill website. For Metro Girl’s review of Strawberry Hill, click here.

  • 23 October : Family Day: Halloween @ Benjamin Franklin House

A spooky family day with spooky 18th century stories told by Polly Hewson and gruesome games for 5-11 year olds. 4pm-5pm. Free, but advanced booking recommend. Benjamin Franklin House, 36 Craven Street, Westminster, WC2N 5NG. Nearest stations: Charing Cross or Embankment. For more information, visit the Benjamin Franklin House website.

  • 24 – 28 October : Halloween Horrors @ Sutton House

Halloween fun and games in a Tudor manor designed by Tea Break Theatre. Fancy dress encouraged. Halloween activities are with normal entry. 12pm-5pm. Tickets (general admission): Adults £7, Children £3.50. Sutton House, 2-4 Homerton High Street, Hackney, E9 6JQ. Nearest station: Homerton. For more information, visit the National Trust website.

  • 27 – 28 October : Horniman Halloween Fair

Meet creepy crawlies, spooky storytelling, arts and crafts markets and food stalls. Halloween costume encouraged. 10.30am-4.30pm. Free entry. Horniman Museum and Gardens, 100 London Road, Forest Hill, SE23 3PQ. Nearest station: Forest Hill. For more information, visit the Horniman Museum website.

Things that go bump in the night

  • 7 October – 3 November : London Horror Festival

Festival of live horror performance including cabaret, film screenings, Zombie weekends, midnight performances and a short horror play competition. Ticket prices vary. Most events take place at the Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St John Street, Islington, EC1V 4NJ. Nearest station: Angel. For more information, visit the London Horror Festival website.

  • 12, 16-19 and 30-31 October : The Silhouette in the Smoke

An immersive theatrical experience with a murder mystery written especially for the London Museum of Water and Steam. Victorian high tea included. You must solve the mystery in groups of six. Over 16s only. 7.15pm. Tickets: £28. London Museum of Water & Steam, Kew Bridge Road, Brentford, TW8 0EF. Nearest station: Kew Bridge. For more information, visit the London Museum of Water & Steam websiteRead the rest of this entry

A slice of Cuba in London with music, food, cocktails and more at Last Nights Of Havana

Last Nights of Havana

Cuba comes to London with the Last Nights of Havana

Autumn is officially arrived so the nights are longer and the temperatures are dropping. With winter fast approaching, wouldn’t it be lovely to jet off to warmer climes… in somewhere like Cuba for example? Well, if you can’t afford the time or airfare, this autumn and winter, a slice of Cuba is coming to London.

Last Nights Of Havana © Kritt Normsaskul

Order a classic Cuban cocktail
© Kritt Normsaskul

The distinctive tastes, sound and spirit of pre-revolution Cuba will be popping up at Tobacco Dock for a limited period. Launching at the re-imaginated Quayside Bar, Last Nights Of Havana will be an evening of tropical rum, food, jazz and dance. Running from 19 October 2018 until May 2019, this new experience will evoke memories of Cuba’s opulent heyday in the 1940s and 1950s. Imagine the glamour, Cadillacs, cigars and rum cocktails.

Upon arrival, guests will be toasted with a complimentary rum cocktail before entering the warm palm-filled tropical bar. Inside, the mixologists will create Cuba’s iconic drinks, such as Mojitos, Daiquiris and Cuba Libre at the large island bar. Andy Mil and Elliot Ball from the Cocktail Trading Company have devised the cocktail menu featuring contemporary twists on the Cuban classics featuring the full Bacardi portfolio. There will also be a full bar for those who fancy a drink other than rum. Meanwhile, when you’re feeling peckish, you can feast on Cuban street food and snacks.

Throughout the evening, you’ll be entertained with Cuban music and dancing with Cuban-born Musical Director Oreste ‘Sambroso’ Noda leading the nightly band. Expect sounds inspired by Cuban music combined with a contemporary London soundtrack. The band will play homage to the iconic melody of the Buena Vista Social Club. At the night progresses, the DJs take over with Latin-influenced beats and dancefloor classics.

Last Nights Of Havana aims to offer an alternative night out for Londoners, combining food, drink, music and dance. It’s suitable for couples’ date nights to birthday celebrations to work socials. There will also be rum-tasting masterclasses available every Saturday for those who want to expand their knowledge into the sugar cane spirit. Last Nights Of Havana will also be hosting a New Year’s Party for those who want to kick off 2019 with some Latin flavour.

  • Last Nights Of Havana, Quayside Bar, Tobacco Dock, Wapping Lane (Gate Entrance), Wapping, E1W 2SF. Nearest station: Shadwell or Wapping. Runs from 8 October 2018 – May 2019. Open 5pm-12am. Tickets: £20 in 2018, £25 in 2019 (inc complimentary arrival cocktail). Masterclass: £60pp (include rum flight, special cocktail and discount towards evening event). For more information and tickets, visit lastnightsofhavana.com.
Last Nights Of Havana © Stefanie Wolff

The pop-up evokes the spirits of the 1940s and 1950s Cuba before the revolution

To find out what’s on in London in December, click here.

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London scores high with 10 venues in the World’s 50 Best Bars 2018

Savoy The American Bar © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

A First Impressions cocktail at The American Bar

The winners of the World’s 50 Best Bars 2018 have been revealed. Unsurprisingly, London has taken the crown and features an impressive 10 establishments on the list. Five hundred drink experts from around the world debated the annual ranking of bars, with the 2018 list unveiled on 3 October.

This year, the best place in the world to get a cocktail is Dandelyan at the Mondrian hotel on London’s South Bank. The bar opened in 2014, but creator Ryan Chetiyawardana announced this week it’s set to close. Meanwhile last year’s winner is at a respectable No.2 this year; The American Bar at The Savoy, with its long history dating back over 100 years.

Looking at the London establishments, I’ve been to a few of them, but my ‘to drink at’ list just got a bit longer! Here’s details of the capital’s top drinking destinations and their placing, according to the World’s 50 Best Bars 2018.

Swanky bar on the ground floor of the Mondrian hotel on the banks of the River Thames. Dandelyan is the brainchild of award-winning bartender Chetiyawardana, the man behind White Lyan and Super Lyan. British designer Tom Dixon curated the interiors with baby pink seating and a green marble bar.

Mondrian London, 20 Upper Ground, South Bank, SE1 9PD. Nearest station: Waterloo, Southwark or Blackfriars.

The Savoy’s bar is London’s oldest surviving bar, having opened in 1904. Expect art deco interiors, top class customer service and a live pianist on many evenings. The current menu (including First Impressions cocktail pictured) has been inspired by the photography of Terry O’Neill. Over the decades, it has quenched the thirst of Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Ernest Hemingway, and many more.

The Savoy, Strand, Westminster, WC2R 0EZ. Nearest stations: Charing Cross, Temple or Embankment.

Plush Mayfair hotel bar with a 1920s vibe, featuring Cubist-inspired wood panelling, dark leather, candlelight and huge mirrors. Bar snacks and evening canapes also available.

Connaught Hotel, Carlos Place, Mayfair, W1K 2AL. Nearest station: Green Park or Bond Street.

Inspired by the bar at the Termini station in Rome, this cafe-cum-bar will particularly appeal to fans of coffee. Expect exposed brickwork, chequerboard tiles and wood interiors for a continental feel.

7 Old Compton Street, Soho, W1D 5JE. Nearest station: Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Circus.

Oriole cocktails © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

International inspired cocktails @ Oriole

Hidden in the depths of Smithfield Market is a cosy, subterranean drinking den. Featuring explorer-style décor of teal and bamboo, there is also a decent food menu and live music in addition to the extensive cocktail menu, themed on different parts of the world.

East Poultry Avenue, Clerkenwell, EC1A 9LH. Nearest station: Farringdon.

A neighbourhood bar inspired by France. Cocktails inspired by French avant garde cultural icons sit alongside a selection of contemporary French dishes, including weekend brunch offerings.

423 Bethnal Green Road, Bethnal Green, E2 0AN. Nearest station: Bethnal Green.

This cosy Hackney bar has a simple premise and aims to be ecologically responsible. The menu is split into five sections: Tree, Overground, Plant-Bush, Underground and Sea, which feature pairing taster snacks.

224 Graham Street, Hackney, E8 1BP. Nearest station: Hackney Central.

This slimline Dalston bar changes its menu weekly. As well as cocktails, wine and beer, it also serves a range of cheese and wines.

510b Kingsland Road, Dalston, E8 4AB. Nearest station: Dalston Junction.

Hip speakeasy basement bar in the heart of Hoxton. Expect low lighting, exposed brick and a ‘no wallies’ policy. Although they keep seats for walk-ins, it’s very popular so getting a seat can be difficult.

8-9 Hoxton Square, Hoxton, N1 6NU. Nearest station: Old Street or Hoxton.

Swift bar covers two floors with each one having a different feel. Drinking aficionados should head to the basement bar for the best Swift experience, with the bar offering a strong focus on whisky and an extensive menu.

12 Old Compton Street, Soho, W1D 4TQ. Nearest station: Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Circus.

For Metro Girl’s bar reviews, click here.

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Broken Shaker pop-up comes to Madison for London Cocktail Week

© Broken Shaker BAD ATTITUDE

A Bad Attitude (Toasted Coconut Bacardi 4 yr, Campari, Sweet Vermouth, House Mango Vinegar) at Broken Shaker, which is bringing a pop-up to London for Cocktail Week

If you’ve been to Miami in the past few years, you’ve probably heard of The Broken Shaker. Originally launched as a pop-up in 2012, it’s now a fully-fledged permanent drinking spot at the Freehand Hotel and was No.17 on the 2017 list of the World’s Best Bars. Its team have already wowed Chicago, Los Angeles and New York and now it’s finally crossing the Atlantic just in time for London Cocktail Week 2018.

This Miami Beach hotspot will be bringing its eclectic Florida vibes to the capital for an exclusive pop-up at Madison London. From 2 – 5 October 2018, The Broken Shaker’s East Coast bar director Bobby Eldridge will be creating a bespoke drinks menu for the rooftop destination in the City of London.

Guests can expect a little slice of Miami in an urban oasis with sweeping views of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Square Mile. The team behind the Broken Shaker are bringing some Miami heat with its signature ‘backyard’ tropical décor. The special menu will feature a mix of local and exotic ingredients, overseen by Miami’s top female bartender Courtney Lane.

Among the concoctions will be the grapefruit and garden shrub-infused Lion’s Club, whiskey-based Thai Tea Sazerac, and Coco-nut Case (Olmeca Altos Plata Tequila, Koko Kanu, fresh lime, kaffir agave and a coconut citrus sea salt rim). Also on offer will be the Broken Shaker’s signature aperitifs such as the Mocha Negroni (tequila, vanilla and grapefruit-infused Sancho’s Special), and the Fair and Square (peanut butter-washed Bulleit Rye, dark chocolate-infused Hennessy, red Vermouth, Benedictine and bitters).

  • The Broken Shaker at Madison runs from 2-5 October 2018. At Madison (6th floor), One New Change, New Change, City of London, EC4M 9AF. Nearest station: St Paul’s or Mansion House. Open Tues-Thu 11am-late, Fri 11am-1am. For more information, visit Madison’s website. For more information about London Cocktail Week (1-7 October 2018), visit Drink Up London.

For the latest guide to what’s on in London, click here.

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Go west! Exploring Kensington’s hidden gems and local hangouts

Kensington Palace © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Kensington is world renowned for its royal palace

The London district of Kensington is world renowned for its palace, famous museums and having some of the most expensive property in the UK. From the grand museums of South Kensington to the greenery of Kensington Gardens, each district has its own different character. With its location and tube stations providing easy access to the capital’s attractions, Kensington is a popular base for many visitors.

With the borough boasting an array of museums, it’s no surprise that three of its attractions appear in the top 10 list of most visited free attractions in London. The Natural History Museum had over 4 million visitors in 2017, while its neighbours the Science Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum had over 3 million. Meanwhile, Kensington Palace is No.11 on the list of paid London attractions, with over 645,000 visitors in 2017.

While all three of the big museums are brilliant places to go, there’s a lot more to visit in Kensington. I’ve worked a large chunk of my career in Kensington and have stumbled upon the lesser-known attractions of the area when I’ve not been working. For this blog post, I spent the day exploring some of Kensington’s hidden gems. One particular destination off the beaten path is the stunning Leighton House Museum. Located near Holland Park and Kensington High Street, it was built in stages from 1866 to 1895 as a home and studio for painter Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896). From the outside, it looks like a classical, red Victorian home. However, upon stepping inside, it’s like entering a Moorish palace. The main attraction is the beautiful Arab Hall, with its mosaics, Islamic tiles and golden dome. As well as its stunning interiors and expansive garden (by London standards at least!), there is also an extensive art collection, featuring paintings and sculptures by Leighton and his Victorian contemporaries. If you’re a fan of architecture and/or art – particularly pre-Raphaelite paintings – I recommend checking it out. You’re not allowed photos inside, although you can get some good shots in the lovely garden.

© Leighton House Museum, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

The stunning Arab Hall in the Leighton House Museum
© Leighton House Museum, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

Azzedine Alaïa Design Museum © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Designer dreaming at the Azzedine Alaïa exhibition at the Design Museum

A short walk away is the Design Museum on Kensington High Street. It was previously located in Bermondsey, but moved to the former Commonwealth Institute in Kensington in 2016. The spacious 1960s building is worth a visit in itself for architecture fans. It is home to a permanent free exhibition; ‘Designer, Maker, User’, as well as various changing exhibitions and events throughout the year. On my particular visit, I bought tickets for the Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier exhibition, which is on until 7 October 2018. Curated with the designer shortly before his death last year, the exhibition features a collection of his fashions from the early 1980s to his last collection in 2017. The museum is an interesting space and the way the team have presented Alaia’s creations on transparent models on mirrored platforms was brilliant and really showcased the layers and angles of each design.

Kensington Phillies eggs royale © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Eggs royale @ Cafe Phillies

When you’re in this end of High Street Kensington, there’s a great little café down a quiet side street if you’re feeling peckish. Located on Phillimore Gardens with a small outdoor terrace is Café Phillies. It’s an independent café and wine bar, popular with locals and serves an all-day breakfast. It’s a cosy venue with contemporary art on the walls and friendly staff. I took advantage of the unlimited brunch hours and ordered an Eggs Benedict Royale for a late lunch. Served on toasted English muffins, there was a very generous serving of smoked salmon and the poached eggs were perfectly runny. A great spot for lunch or breakfast.

If you’re looking for some fresh air, consider walking down to Kensington Gardens. The large park covers 207 acres, with Kensington Palace located in the western end of the Gardens. Known for being the London home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, parts of the palace are open to the public, including the King’s and Queen’s State Apartments. On this particular visit, I remained outside the palace walls and enjoyed the many free attractions of the gardens. As the palace was the last home to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, there are several memorials to the royal, including a children’s playground and a memorial walk. Throughout the Gardens are many buildings and sculptures to check out, including the 18th century Queen Caroline’s Temple, Henry Moore’s arch and the ornate Albert Memorial. The north side of the park features the 150-year-old Italian ornamental garden, built as a gift to Queen Victoria from her husband Prince Albert. Nearby is Queen Anne’s Alcove, a small structure built in 1705 and designed Sir Christopher Wren. Meanwhile, deeper in the Gardens is Queen Caroline’s Temple, a quaint 18th century summer house with views towards the Long Water.  Read the rest of this entry

Pints, pizza and kegs – oh my! Heist Bank Beer Festival returns for 2018

Heist Bank Beer Festival 2018

The Heist Bank Beer Festival returns to Paddington for the second year running this October

Returning to Paddington for the second year running is the Heist Bank Beer Festival. Following their launch in 2017, the Heist Bank crew are putting on a bigger and better celebration.

Over the 12 – 14 October weekend, over 60 beers from UK and international breweries will be on tap. Heist Bank’s beer experts have curated a list of their favourite brews. From fruity ales to unusual stouts, beer lovers will find plenty to whet their appetite. Taking part are top breweries Fourpure, Siren and Wild Beer Co, who will showcasing special seasonal releases and collaborative brews at the bar’s 12 taps.

Among the entertainment and activities will be hands-on workshops in Heist Bank’s games room, such as beer games, non-alcoholic beer sampling, beer and cheese pairings and beer yoga. Every evening of the festival, DJs will be taking to the decks.

As well as plenty of drinking options, the Heist Bank wood-fired oven will be working overtime, baking a wide range of sourdough pizzas, with invented toppings such as wild boar sausage, Bath chaps and yellow courgette.

  • The Heist Bank Beer Festival takes place from 12-14 October 2018. Heist Bank, 5 North Wharf Road, Paddington, W2 1LA. Nearest station: Paddington or Edgware Road. Sessions: Fri 6pm-11pm, Sat 12pm-5pm and 6pm-11pm and Sun 12pm-5pm. Tickets: £15 (inc beer glass and 2 free beers). For more information, visit the Heist Bank Beer Festival website.

To find out what’s on in London in October, click here.

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Beso London review: Delicious Moorish cuisine in a relaxed West End setting

Beso Shaftesbury Avenue © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Social eats: Sharing plates to start at Beso in Shaftesbury Avenue

Beso London is the newest foodie addition to the West End. Billed as a Moorish restaurant, the menu takes inspiration from Morocco and Spain. The new establishment is headed up by founder chef Khalid Dahbi, who has worked in Michelin-starred Le Meurice and L’Arpège in Paris, Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s, the Gaucho, and Bibendum Restaurant. Situated on the fringes of Covent Garden at the less hectic end of Shaftesbury Avenue, Beso is a refreshing addition to the area’s culinary offerings, which tend to be dominated by chain restaurants.

Beso cava kitchen © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Seated at the Firebar, we had a great view of the kitchen

The venue offers a choice of outdoor and indoor tables. The night of my visit was hot so the terrace was understandably in high demand, so we decided to dine indoors and were thrilled to be offered the Chef’s Table, aka the Firebar. The space features low-lighting, modern art and subtle mosaic detailing, giving a contemporary Moorish feel. Although primarily a dining destination, there is also seating at the bar if you just fancied a quick drink or pre-food cocktails.

Pulling up comfortable bar stools at the marble Firebar, we had a great view into the kitchen so could see and smell the food being cooked. The beauty of sitting at the Firebar meant Chef Khalid could explain the dishes to us and show us the individual ingredients being added. Reading ingredients on a menu is one thing, but being able to see the quality and quantity of them being added to your food was really enlightening. We kicked things off with a glass of Cava with some nibbles as we decided between going off the menu or opting for ‘the Beso Experience’. My friend and I were up for a culinary adventure so after stipulating our dietary requirements, signed up for the experience, which translates as small plates of Beso’s best dishes using the freshest ingredients that day.

We began with the starter-esque sharing plates, along with a bottle of a Portuguese white, Fernão Pires Verdelho, Ai Galera, – recommended by the chef – which was a refreshing and delicate accompaniment. Our first dish was some Crispy Chickpeas with Cumin and Paprika; and Moroccan Sardines with Basil and Chichurra. I liked the different approach to chickpeas, which can be quite a boring food if not seasoned correctly, while the sardines were absolutely delicious. Thinly sliced and served cold, the sardines tasted so fresh and were well complemented by the Basil and Chichurra. We moved on to another fish dish, Smoked Mackerel Pate with Smoked Nuts with bread. It was incredibly more-ish (or should that be Moorish! – ha). Continuing the fish dominance, we had an old favourite of Calamari with Crème Fraiche, Lemon Zest and Harissa, with Chef Khalid garnishing it in front of us, really bringing the kitchen action to the table. Adding some vegetables into the mix, we had a delicious Aubergine Salad with Mixed Peppers and Spinach. The Duck Pastilla was a big hit with my friend. A Moroccan dish of duck wrapped in pastry, cumin, flaked almonds and cinnamon, which proved an interesting and tasty mix of sweet and savoury.  Read the rest of this entry