Category Archives: Bars
Limited-edition menu sees competing gin cocktails with House of Pink vs House of Orange.
I’m a great believer in drinking to suit the seasons – I would never dream of mulled cider in summer and an Aperol Spritz must always be accompanied by warmth and sunshine. So whenever I hear the words ‘summer drinks’, I don’t need much convincing. Furthermore, when I heard that Dirty Martini were using my tipple of choice – gin – in their new summer menu, I didn’t need much incentive to try it out.
This summer, the cocktail bar chain has created a contrasting summer drink menu, featuring the competing House of Pink vs the House of Orange. Each ‘house’ features three cocktails each, with the common ingredient being either Beefeater Blood Orange or Strawberry Pink Gin. I’m fairly well acquainted with pink gin, but not so much with the blood orange so was keen to experiment. I’ve only been drinking gin regularly for a few years and often find friends declaring they ‘don’t like it’. However, I’ve always insisted that a cocktail or a flavoured gin will be far from their memory of gin, as its such a versatile drink. On my visit, I was accompanied by one of those said friends who didn’t think she liked gin, but was open-minded. With my encouragement, she tried a ‘Strawberries & Dreams (strawberry pink gin, pineapple, strawberries and a coconut foam), which she was pleasantly surprised by how sweet and lovely it tasted. Meanwhile, I opted for a ‘Summer Lover’ (Blood orange gin, passoa, fresh passion fruit, vanilla, citrus, egg white and Prosecco), an even fruitier twist on the Pornstar Martini, which I really liked.
My friend had soon developed quite the taste for the pink gin, as had I for the blood orange, so we let those ingredients dominate our next cocktail choice. My pal decided on the ‘I Lychee Like That’ (Strawberry pink gin, watermelon, lychee and strawberries with dehydrated dragon fruit), with the lychee and dragon fruit giving an exotic twist and refreshing taste. However, I went for the uber delicate ‘Life’s a Peach’ (Blood orange gin, Frangelico, peach, peach schnapps, eucalyptus, citrus and egg white), which was a surprisingly boozy and fragrant drink. Finally to finish, we kept it simple with pink and orange gin and tonics. Having stuck to blood orange cocktails, I mixed things up and went for the strawberry pink gin served with pink grapefruit and mint, which was sweet, but light. Meanwhile, the blood orange gin is accompanied by orange slices and fresh rosemary, with the herb really elevating the gin flavour.
Overall, the summer menu is a treat for gin lovers and even those who think they don’t like gin… you may be surprised! I’ve been back to the St Paul’s branch to enjoy the summer menu more than once, and I’m sure I’ll have to squeeze in one last visit before the season ends.
- Dirty Martini’s Summer Drinks menu is available from 3 June – 1 September 2019 at all branches. London branches include Bishopsgate, Covent Garden, Hanover Square, Islington, Monument, St Paul’s and Minories. For more information, visit the Dirty Martini website.
- Dirty Martini’s Bottomless Gin Brunch is available from 7 June – 1 September 2019 at Bishopsgate (Fri, Sat & Sun), and St Paul’s, Hanover Square and Minories (Fri and Sat). Featuring Bottomless G&Ts, Prosecco, choice of three Martinis or beer for 90 minutes, alongside a birdcage of sharing food.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar reviews, click here.
Popping up in bustling Farringdon this August will be a secret hideaway cocktail haven. Hidden from passers-by behind ivy-covered walls will be the Fentimans Secret Spritz Garden.
The city oasis will be a destination for after-work drinks and weekend cocktails during the warm August evenings. Step inside a garden full of plants, medicinal herbs and a 200-year-old olive tree to shade under. Guests can sneak through the privet hedge to find the hidden bar, before enjoying a drink on the jasmine-trailed swing seat and gazing at a lemon-filled fountain. As the sun sets, garlands of fairy lights with light up the space, which will be filled with the sounds of live jazz and acoustic music.
Botanical drink company Fentimans have teamed up with mixology expert Dino Koletsas (The Langham, Bourne & Hollingsworth, Callooh Callay) to create a special spritz menu. Visitors can enjoy a redefined series of spritzes featuring Fentimans tonic waters and top British ingredients. The full range of Fentimans tonics (from Valencian Orange to Pink Rhubarb) will be mixed with homemade herbal infusions and liqueurs, fresh fruit and aperitifs. Guests will be able to garnish their own spritzes with rosemary, sage and lavender from the garden. Throughout the three-week pop-up, the Spritz Garden will also host masterclasses, such as floristry, flower pressing, Limoncello making and collages.
- The Fentimans Secret Spritz Garden, Clerkwenwell. Nearest station: Farringdon (5 min walk). Open from 7 – 30 August 2019. Opening hours Wed-Fri 5pm-11pm, Sat 12pm-11pm and Bank Holiday Sunday 12pm-11pm. For more information and the location, visit the Secret Spritz Garden website.
For a guide to what’s on in London in August, click here.
Gigi’s Hoxton review: Summer cocktails and delicious bites at a versatile new dining, drinking and music venue
Hoxton Square is one of my favourite areas in Shoreditch because it offers what appeals to me about the area (e.g. nightlife), but also avoids the traffic and pollution that venues in Old Street, Great Eastern Street, etc, have to put up with. I’ve been socialising in Hoxton Square since the late ’90s (showing my age here!) and always thought of the area as a little nightlife enclave with great bars and a nice atmosphere.
A new addition to the East End foodie and entertainment scene is Gigi’s Hoxton. The versatile venue is an all-day restaurant, bar and music venue with an alfresco terrace and a basement sister space Hoxton Underbelly hosting comedy, live music, DJs and club nights. Taking over the former Zigfrid von Underbelly, Gigi’s Hoxton is the latest venture from Giovanna Hussain, the woman behind some of East London’s favourite venues, including The Corner Shop and The Grapevine in Shoreditch, and The Rocksteady in Dalston. I went along with a friend last week to check it out.
As a previous customer of Zigfrid (although my last visit was some years ago), I couldn’t believe how different the venue looked. The bar had been moved from its original location and the vibrant murals by Kate Philipson had really brightened up the place. The finished look is a mix of industrial and vintage-esque chic, with colourful chairs, zinc tables, a green stone bar and neon lights.
Upon arrival, we headed straight for the bar and mulled over the cocktail list. Being a balmy day, my natural choice was an Aperol Spritz, while my friend couldn’t resist the Espresso Martini (on tap!). As a seasoned Aperol Spritz fan, I’m pleased to say Gigi’s got it spot on with the right mix of bitter and sweetness. I’ve found quite a few bars/pubs don’t get the balance right, so it’s always good to see a venue getting it right.
The ground floor is essentially a L shape so we headed to the narrower section at the back to grab a table and two leather chairs. Gigi’s menus have been created by Head Chef Antonio Mollo and are influenced by his Italian heritage, as well as classic British dishes. We tried a selection of canapes, derived from the main menu, and were impressed by the creativity and flavour. One particular stand-out was the bruschetta. Although I’ve eaten the dish often over the years, I must praise this one for being so fresh and rich in taste. Other highlights were the crispy polenta, mushroom and taleggio fondue and the tortilla taco with homemade guacamole. I’ve got to mention the pea soup, Grey Goose le citron vodka sour cream shot which was a pretty unique taste for me, but I quite liked it.
Aside from the drinking and food, one of Gigi’s USPs is its music scene. After initially being treated to some soulful house and classic R&B tracks from the DJ, we were entertained with some great live music from the Blue Lion Band.
Overall, I think Gigi’s Hoxton is a great addition to east London’s nightlife. The food and drinks were equally good. The venue had a great ambiance and the DJs and live music really completed the evening. I’ll be back.
- Gigi’s Hoxton, 11 Hoxton Square, N1 6NU. Nearest stations: Hoxton or Old Street. Open Mon–Thu: 12pm–1am, Fri: 12pm–3am, Sat: 10am–3am, Sun: 10am–12am. For more information, visit the Gigi’s Hoxton website.
For more of Metro Girl’s restaurant reviews, click here.
City views, Rosé and weekend brunches as Le Pont de la Tour launches La Maison du Rosé summer terrace
There’s something about a warm summer night which makes me want to reach for a glass of rose. If that sounds right up your street, there’s a special drinking destination by the banks of the Thames this season. French riverside restaurant Le Pont de la Tour is teaming up with the Minuty Rosé brand to launch a rosé terrace for the summer, La Maison du Rosé.
With stunning views of Tower Bridge and the City of London, La Maison du Rosé will be a sun trap on a warm day. Visitors can enjoy the alfresco surroundings while sipping on Minuty’s prized Rosés, Fruits de Mer platters, unique rosé tastings and weekend rosé brunch menus. The terrace will be adorned with pastel pink colours, pink flowers and Insta-ready decorations. Expect an outdoor bar, a decorative canopy and plenty of blossom and flowers.
Throughout the summer, Le Pont de la Tour will offer Rosé packages with a glass/bottle of Rosé with fresh Fruits de Mer platters. The terrace will also host weekly Rosé brunch on Saturdays, which includes three courses and a bottle of Rose. The brunch menu features Eggs Royale or Benedict, followed by Cornish Blonde skate wing with shrimps and cucumber grenobloise and wild garlic risotto with confit hen egg and parmesan crisps and finally, to finish, French toast with salted caramel and vanilla ice cream or a refreshing lemon tart with meringue.
La Maison du Rosé will also offer guests the chance to enjoy wine tastings and masterclasses on Rosé from the Minuty vineyards on the French Riviera. The terrace will offer a variety of Minuty rosés including the limited-edition Côtes de Provence 2018.
- La Maison du Rosé is open now until 31 August 2019. At Pont de la Tour, 36D Shad Thames, SE1 2YE. Nearest station: London Bridge. Rose brunches every Saturday: £150 for four people, three courses and a bottle of Minuty Rosé. For more information and booking, visit Le Pont de La Tour website.
For a guide to what’s on in London in August, click here.
Rooftop destination is back at Tobacco Quay for summer 2019.
One thing I love about the coming of summer is the opening of London’s rooftop bars. With such an amazing skyline in our capital, along with the lovely feeling of the sun on your face, it’s not surprising these sky-high destinations are a big draw over the warmer seasons. This week, one of my favourite summer destinations, Skylight, opened for the new season with its latest makeover. I went along to the launch in Wapping and checked out the attractions, cocktails, and – of course – the views.
Spread over three floors, the venue combines drinking, (casual) dining, lawn games and events, such as live sport screenings. The venue is well prepared for the unpredictable British summer, with plenty of zones undercover should the weather turn for the worst. Returning this summer are the croquet lawns and Palenque courts. My friend and I enjoyed a few games of croquet, which is significantly harder than it looks, but provided lots of laughs. In addition this year, Skylight has also added some table tennis.
Skylight offers three bars over the different levels, serving a mix of summery cocktails, such as Jalisco Sky, Raspberry Rum Margherita, Apple Sunrise and the Gin Basil Spice. There are also more traditional options, including wine, Bacardi spirits, Moet e Chandon champagne and Sharps Offshore, Staropramen, Wolf Rock IPA, Blue Moon and Aspal Cyder on tap. When you get hungry, there’s two stalls YIRO and Flipside, serving up delicious street food. I couldn’t resist some halloumi fries.
This summer sees even more seating and bookable options than previous years, with daybeds and garden booths available for intimate groups. There is more raised seating so even more people can get a better look at the views, while added greenery gives an urban garden vibe. Sports fans will be able to watch big games, including the FA Cup Final, Wimbledon and the Rugby World Cup. There will also be special events throughout the summer, including Hendricks Summer Solstice party (21 June), Gay Day, Opera and Dog Day.
Skylight was originally launched in 2017 on top of Tobacco Dock’s multi-story car park. Located just east of the City of London a short walk from Shadwell station (only a few minutes on the DLR from Bank), it gives stunning views over the capital’s skyline, with sights such as the Gherkin and The Shard visible. As well as its summer season, it is also a popular winter spot, with a rooftop ice rink on the roof.
- Skylight, Tobacco Quay (Pennington Street entrance), Wapping, E1CW 2SF. Nearest station: Shadwell (DLR/TFL Rail) or Wapping. Open from 2 May until (TBA) September 2019. Open Thu-Fri 5pm-11pm, Sat-Sun 12pm-11pm. Free entry, but large groups over 10 are recommended to book. Croquet: Indoor £25, Outdoor £35 (45 min game), Petanque: £15 (2-4 players), Table tennis £5 for 30 mins. Day beds and booths available for booking from £70 for up to 10 people. For more information, visit the Skylight London website.
To find out what else is on in London in July, click here.
Creative cocktails, fabulous food and house parties galore.
Long before The Little Blue Door, there was The Little Yellow Door. The original, cult pop-up entertained tens of thousands of revellers with cocktails, food and fun during its first three years in its first home in Notting Hill Gate. Following the opening of its successor The Little Blue Door in Fulham last year, The Little Yellow Door is returning to Notting Hill with a permanent home.
TLYD’s second outing will be situated at All Saints Road, around the corner from its original home. The flatmates are moving into their new abode and are ready to welcome guests to join their never-ending house party. To those uninitiated, The Little Yellow Door is based on a fictional flatshare, home to an eclectic mix of flatmates. Guests are invited to drop by the party pad to enjoy cocktails, sharing plates, boozy brunches and late-night dancing.
The Little Yellow Door is set over two floors and is inspired by its first outing with colourful and quirky décor, mismatched furniture and the original yellow door. Guests can mingle in the open plan kitchen and living room, with cosy sofas and a fireplace for those colder evenings. The experimental cocktail list is inspired by the flatmates’ DVD collection. Previous visitors will recognise boozy concoctions such as Coffee And Cigarettes and Kill Bill (Earl Grey infused Bombay Sapphire Gin, Lemon Curd and Thyme).
Meanwhile, foodies will be in for a feast with TLYD offering a monthly, changing seasonal menu. Every month will feature two of the flatmates using their national cuisine in a cook-off, with each winner offering more culinary treats the following month. Among the grub on offer includes Salt and Pepper Squid with Lettuce Wraps, Lime Leaf and Lemongrass Dipping Sauce; Woodfired Bavette Steak with Chimichurri and a Horseradish Cream or Shallot Sauce; and Pork Belly and Peanut Bao Buns with House Pickles. Meanwhile, every weekend the flatmates will be hosting bottomless brunches on Saturday and Sunday roasts.
If you’re up for a late-night party, guests can sneak away to the secret hideaway downstairs. The Flatmates’ Den is open until 2am and features retro games, backgammon and poker tables, while the music corner offers instruments, record players and live DJs.
- The Little Yellow Door, 6-8 All Saints Road, Notting Hill, W11 1HH. Nearest station: Westbourne Park or Ladbroke Grove. For more information, visit The Little Yellow Door website. To book, WhatsApp: 07801 267 854 or email TLYD
For the latest what’s on guide in London, click here.
East London drinking and dining destination Number 90 is celebrating its fifth party with its biggest weekender ever. The Hackney Wick hangout will be hosting a mini festival over 4 – 7 April 2019. Expect DJ sets, gastro delights, new cocktails, competitions and art… and the festivities are free!
Located by the canal, the Hackney venue will kick things off on Thursday night with music from Stranger Than Paradise Records. The party really gets started on the Friday with Dutch DJ and producer Tom Trago hitting the decks, as well as Fabric’s new resident DJ Anna Wall and all-female collective SISU spinning until sunrise.
On Saturday evening, iconic record store Phonica Records will be hosting the festivities along with The London Disco Society, Late Night Tales and Vicious Creatures keeping the party going until 6am. During the night, revellers can expect a special surprise from Number 90’s neighbour space Studio 9294. Finally, the celebrations will wind down with a chilled Sunday. Enjoy a boozy brunch with Tropical Disco Records providing the Sunday soundtrack.
- Number 90 Bar & Kitchen’s 5th Birthday party takes place on 4 – 7 April 2019. Number 90 Bar & Kitchen, 90 Wallis Road, Hackney Wick, E9 5LN. Nearest station: Hackney Wick. Open Thu and Sun 12pm-11pm, Fri-Sat 12pm-6am. Free entry. For more information, visit Number 90’s website.
For the latest what’s on guide in London, click here.
With the rising popularity of Veganuary and more people making sustainable lifestyle choices, veganism is becoming more mainstream. With that in mind, Londoners are seeking more options when drinking or dining out. For a short time only, Dirty Martini have a limited-edition vegan cocktail menu. On offer until the end of March, the menu features a choice of five dairy-free, boozy creations, all priced at £9.
I went along to the Covent Garden branch last week to try them out with a friend. Upon entering the subterranean space, we were given a cosy, leather booth in the corner which was perfect for a girlie catch-up over cocktails. Despite being a Tuesday night, the atmosphere had just the right amount of party with a DJ playing a mix of new and classic hits in the background. We dove straight into the new vegan menu, with my eye naturally being drawn to the gin cocktails. I ordered The Pink Garden (Beefeater gin, basil liqueur and beetroot shrub with pomegranate, raspberries and citrus), while my friend opted for the 24 Carrot Gold (Havana 3 year rum, green Chartreuse, carrot, ginger, mango, pineapple and citrus). The Pink Garden was a unique flavour – with the beetroot, pomegranate and basil really coming through strong. Surprisingly, the contrasting sweet and savoury flavours worked really well and it was my favourite concoction of the evening.
Next up, I continued with the mother’s ruin theme with a more traditional-esque cocktail – the Lemon and Ginger Collins – a modern twist on the Collins (Beefeater gin, elderflower, ginger and lime, topped with soda). It was refreshing and light and would make a fabulous drink at a spring or summer party. Meanwhile, my friend wanted a sweet treat with the Smooth Operator (Absolut vodka, Kahlua, vegan cream and vegan chocolate), which she declared was a delectable dream and was drunk very quickly!
Delicious drinks aside, we also ordered food to accompany our drinks – well it was a school night! Having ordered vegan cocktails, it was only right to go for the vegetarian sharing platter. The board included Mac & cheese bites; vegetable dumplings; grilled halloumi, vegetable & pesto kebabs; Korean vegetable samosas and grilled flatbreads with mint yoghurt and hummus. Despite being a carb fest, the food was perfectly cooked and wasn’t oily. I particularly loved the mac and cheese bites and the kebabs, they were a great accompaniment to our cocktails. Overall, we had a fabulous evening. The cocktails were experimentally excellent, while the food, service and ambiance were also brilliant.
- The special Vegan cocktail menu are available at all Dirty Martinis until 31 March 2019. London branches at Bishopsgate, Covent Garden, Hanover Square, Islington, Monument, St Paul’s and Minories. For more information, visit the Dirty Martini website.
For a guide to what’s on in London in March, click here.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar reviews, click here.
It’s nearly that time again as one of my favourite festivals returns to the capital. If you’re like me and can’t resist a cocktail, then you can’t miss this three-day mixology extravaganza.
Cocktails In The City is a bi-annual cocktail festival featuring some of London’s best bars all under one roof. This year, the spring edition of the event will be moving to the atmospheric tunnels underneath Waterloo station. The Vaults will be transformed into a maze of sensory drink experiences over 4 – 6 April 2019. Expect plenty of drinking establishments, hidden rooms and top mixologists showing off their skills as they compete to be crowned the best bar.
This year, CITC will be curating seven arches offering different drinking experiences:
- The Secret Garden
Discover a world full of flora and fauna, overflowing with plants and botanicals. Explore B&H Buildings’ sensory Greenhouse on the mezzanine where you can choose your garnishes from the hanging plants discover new botanical cocktails with Mr Fogg’s and enjoy a drink in the garden.
- The Good Times Vault
Your favourite party bars such as London Cocktail Club will be ready to play. The drinks are always strong, the music is always loud and the night is always young.
- The Experimental Lab
Learn from the famed industry mavericks driving the city’s cocktail trends. Marvel at their cocktail wizardry in the experimental lab and get a sneak peek of the innovative techniques used to create award-winning drinks. Read the rest of this entry
If you think bingo is just for pensioners, you’re very much mistaken. In recent years, modern approaches to bingo has been gaining popularity with younger generations. In late 2018, London’s first permanent modern bingo hall opened and I went along to check it out last month. Like traditional bingo, it involves dabbing your numbers in the hope of winning a prize when your numbers are called. However, Dabbers Social Bingo involves a lot of saucy innuendo, cocktails galore, fabulous food and a general party atmosphere.
Dabbers Social Bingo is located on Houndsditch, where the City meets the East End. From the street, you enter a medium-sized bar with outdoor terrace (would be great in summer, but definitely not in January thanks!). I liked the fact the cocktail bar gives no hint of the wildness to come downstairs! After a glass of Prosecco to loosen us up, we headed down to the expansive bingo hall in the basement. It was a surprisingly large space with a variety of tables to suit different sizes from couples to larger groups of friends.
After my companion and I grabbed a well-situated table with a view of the stage, we started with simple, but refreshing pink gin cocktails and settled down for some pre-bingo grub. The food menu has been inspired by bingo balls so features many physically round dishes. It consists mostly of sharing plates, sort of tapas style portions in the spirit of the ‘social’ part of the game. They range from £4-£9.50 and have a wide choice, with a decent amount of vegetarian options. I was pleasantly surprised by how good the food was as I had expected it to take a back seat to the bingo, entertainment and cocktails. We really enjoyed the seared prawn tiger skewers, buffalo glazed chicken skewers, mozzarella ball skewers and pizza bread. It’s worth noting they have brunch bingo on Saturdays and family brunch bingo on Sundays.
Once we were fed and watered, it was time for the main event to kick off. Our compere for the evening was the fabulous Boogaloo Stu. After Stu gave us an introduction to the night, it was over to host James Loveridge and the glamorous bingo calling duo. Bingo newbies are given an explanation to the rules and prizes, before the first game kicks off at a steady pace. While there’s some traditional bingo lingo like ‘legs eleven’, be prepared for some very saucy numerical rhyming, which can be hilariously distracting when you’re trying to strike off your numbers. At various points during the game, a special ball being drawn kicks off a mini disco with the crowd encouraged to drop their dabbers and throw some shapes as the DJ cranks up the music. Throughout the game, people who win one or two lines or a full house are invited on stage to compete for a prize. By this stage, the alcoholic lubrication and the building excitement in the room had clearly got some of the winners as they got on stage so their enthusiastic celebrations were pretty jubilant and amusing to the rest of us in the room.
Overall, we had a really fun evening and it was probably the most raucous Wednesday night I’ve seen in years! The food and drink were brilliant and there was a really fun, high-energy atmosphere. Dabbers certainly offers a more entertaining alternative to the usual catch-up in the a pub, with the added bonus of being able to walk away with a prize. I would particularly recommend Dabbers for group nights out, particularly for birthdays and hen nights.
- Dabbers Social Bingo, 13-22 Houndsditch, City of London, EC3A 7DB. Nearest stations: Aldgate, Liverpool Street or Fenchurch Street. Open Mon-Wed and Sun 12pm-11pm, Thu-Sat 12pm-3am. For more information, visit the Dabbers Social Bingo website.
For more of Metro Girl’s restaurant and bar reviews, click here.