Category Archives: Bars
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.
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
London is world-renowned for its nightlife… and with good reason. While admittedly the nightclub scene isn’t what it was in the ’90s and 00s, the quality of its bars has certainly increased tenfold. Back in 2013, Metro Girl published a guide to London’s speakeasy bars to coincide with the release of The Great Gatsby movie. Over the years, this post has continued to get a lot of readers, but it’s time for an update. A lot can change in five years with bars opening and closing all the time. While many of these hidden bars are 1920s themed and underground, some are on ground level, but are included on the list for their vintage vibe. Of course, in the capital, nothing stays secret for long so reservations are recommended for most of London’s hidden bars.
- 69 Colebrooke Row
Islington cocktail bar with a 1950s Italian café vibe crossed with Film Noir. Billed as ‘The Bar With No Name’, it’s a tight squeeze with only 30 seats. Includes experimental cocktails, food, cocktail masterclasses and weekly live music. Reservations highly recommended.
– 69 Colebrooke Row, Islington, N1 8AA. Nearest station: Angel. For more information, visit the 69 Colebrooke Row website.
In the true spirit of a speakeasy, this secret bar is hard to find. Barts is hidden away in a 1930s Chelsea apartment block behind an unassuming door requiring a password to enter. The venue is styled as a 1920s gangsters’ hideout with the cocktail menu inspired by Uncle Barts’ mob. Read Metro Girl’s review of Barts.
– Barts, Chelsea Cloisters, 87 Sloane Avenue, Chelsea, SW3 3DW. Nearest stations: Sloane Square or South Kensington. For more information, visit the Barts website.
- Beaufort Bar
Although not a speakeasy or a basement bar, the exquisite Beaufort Bar deserves to be on the list for its stunning Art Deco interior alone. While many visitors head to The Savoy’s American Bar, they often miss out on its sister bar. Expect stunning black and gold decor, fabulous cocktails and exception service. Read Metro Girl’s review of the Beaufort Bar.
– The Beaufort Bar, The Savoy, Savoy Court, The Strand, WC2R OEU. Nearest stations: Charing Cross, Embankment or Temple. For more information, visit The Savoy’s website.
Located hidden down a side street in Kingly Court, Cahoots is a step back in time to post-war London. During the Blitz, many of the capital’s tube stations were used as bomb shelters. Cahoots is essentially a post-war tube station, with plenty of vintage TfL memorabilia and furniture, 1940s-themed cocktails, and live swing and lindyhop. As well as cocktails, they also have late night music nights and boozy picnics. To get in, you are advised to make a reservation or try and talk your way in by getting into character and saying the right thing. Read Metro Girl’s review of Cahoots.
To those unaware, Mac & Wild is a Scottish drinking and dining destination across two London venues. Located a stone’s throw from Liverpool Street station, the Devonshire Square branch opened in November 2016 and has fed and watered cityslickers ever since.
Last week, I went along for the launch of two events taking place at Mac & Wild City – a virtual shooting range and the ‘Drams in the Dark’ experience. Having previously visited the Fitzrovia branch for an amazing dinner, I had high hopes for its sister venue. Located in the Georgian enclave of Devonshire Square, Mac & Wild covers two storeys and an outdoor terrace. Our visit coincided with the hottest day of the year at a sweltering 34c so a frozen gin cocktail on arrival was much appreciated.
After sipping a cocktail on the balmy terrace, stepping inside to the cool, air-conditioned enclaves of the building was very alluring. While the main restaurant is located on the ground floor, we headed downstairs to the lower ground to the new whisky bar and virtual shooting range. The vibe is Scottish Highlands-meets-contemporary with wooden beams, leather and fur seating, foliage and over 200 varieties of whisky bottles behind the bar. The team behind Mac & Wild have teamed up whisky expert Blair Bowman to curate the menu and special events, as well as Monkey Shoulder and Glenfiddich. The bar features some interesting twists on whisky servings, such as the Whisky Slushie, of which we enjoyed a few. The slushie was a short, frozen combination of apple and whisky which was both sweet and refreshing. My friend isn’t a big whisky drinker and said she really enjoyed them. As well as plenty of whisky, the bar also offers some of Mac & Wild’s most popular dishes, including Venison Scotch Eggs, Haggis Pops, Mac & Cheese and the Veni-Moo Burger.
Aside from the drinking, one of Mac & Wild’s most unique offerings is its Virtual Shooting Range. The Devonshire Square venue features two lanes equipped with state-of-the-art virtual shooting systems and replica shotguns. As a bona fide city girl and animal lover, the thought of going actual shooting is quite alien to me. However, I was a fan of shooting computer games such as House of the Dead and Duck Hunt as a teenager so was eager to see if my skills had stood up over time. My friend and I had a lot of fun as we tried shooting boars and bears, despite not being too successful, although we watched others fare better. You can choose between clays, rabbits, pheasants, grouse, to deer, boars and bears so the game has quite a variety.
Following a spot of shooting, we headed into a pitch black room for the ‘Drams in the Dark’ experience, hosted by whisky consultant and author Blair Bowman. The dark room setting means your senses are heightened so the aromas and tastes of the whiskies have new depths. Before the tasting begins, you are given an introduction as you settle in and slowly get used to sitting in the darkness. The experience sees you being guided through four or five drams of whisky, along with pairing canapes, which give an added dimension. Among the whiskies we tried were Talisker 10 Years and a Dalmore 12 Years – two very different flavours. Tasting the Talisker along with a bit of fruit cake was a really interesting combination. Despite sitting in a dark room full of strangers, we felt comfortable and really enjoyed the experience. Blair’s knowledge and passion for whisky was really evident and his guidance was useful for both newbies and experienced whisky drinkers.
- Mac & Wild, Devonshire Square, City of London, EC2M 4YN. Nearest station: Liverpool Street. The Whisky Bar is open Tues-Sat from 5pm until late, with the Whisky Hour (happy hour) available daily from 5pm-7pm. The Virtual Shooting Range lanes are available for groups of 2-40 people and are bookable between Mon-– Sat from 12pm-11pm.
- Drams In The Dark take place every Friday and Saturday night from 27 July 2018 and last 90 minutes. Tickets: £40 (include pairing canapes). For more information and booking, visit the Mac & Wild website.
Check out Metro Girl’s review of dinner at Mac & Wild Fitzrovia.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.
Hackney has been a popular social destination for some time, offering a variety of drinking, dancing and dining offerings. Last week, I popped along to one which offers all three, Oslo in Amhurst Road for dinner and cocktails. Oslo is a restaurant, bar and live music venue in a former railway station building by Hackney Central overground. It’s a huge space with high ceilings, with the exposed brickwork and metalwork giving a contemporary, industrial vibe.
Oslo opened in 2014 and offers British cuisine with a Nordic twist, encompassing lunch, dinner, Sunday roasts, weekend brunches and sharing plates. Our visit coincided with the launch of Oslo’s new menu, which features globally inspired dishes. Vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free foodies will find plenty of options to choose from, while carnivores will be pleased with some meatier offerings.
Starting with drinks, Oslo offers a large selection of cocktails, wine and craft beers, as well as the usual spirits. The cocktail menu offers plenty of classics, but many with an Oslo twist – such as a ‘Bull Fashioned’ with rum instead of whisky. I wanted a light, refreshing drink as the evening of our visit was sweltering so I opted for a lovely ‘Jubilation’ (Tanqueray Gin, Elderflower & Blueberry Syrup, Orange Bitters and Prosecco). It was well presented in a crystal, patterned glassware and a sprig of rosemary brought out the flavours. Meanwhile, my dining companion selected a ‘Melon Mojito’ (Havana Anejo Rum, Melon Liqueur, Mint Leaves, Fresh Lime Juice and Brown Sugar), which was a richer, fruitier approach to an old favourite.
Approaching the food menu, we shared a plate of Cod Bolinhos (Cod Croquettes, Seaweed Tempura and Lime Mayonnaise) as a starter. This is the first time I’ve had the dish outside of Portugal or a Portuguese restaurant and I was impressed. It was an authentic and tasty starter and we were actually tempted to order a second round. The crispy seaweed was a good contrast to the soft, chewy Bolinhos. Read the rest of this entry
The capital is hot, hot, hot! Although these sizzling temperatures won’t last forever, it will always be summer in London’s newest pop-up. Casa Bonita is bringing a taste of Latin America to Carnaby. Soho’s newest venue opened in Kingly Street in June and aims to refresh thirsty Londoners until Christmas.
Situated in the heart of Carnaby, Casa Bonita is a flamboyant Latin hybrid bar, celebrating the best of Central and South America. This boozy hideout will be serving fabulous rum, tequila and cachaça cocktails to the strains of Reggaeton, Cuban Hip Hop, Brazilian beats and other Latin beats.
If you’re a fan of the classic Latin cocktails, you won’t be disappointed with an extensive menu featuring Mojitos and Old Cubans made with the finest Barcardi Carta Blanca, Caipirinha made with Leblon cachaça or a Margarita made with Patrón Silver tequila. There will also be frozen Pina Coladas and ice cold Cervezas if you’re feeling hot.
Casa bonita can also keep you fed as well as watered with a menu of Mexican-style street food, such as chicken & chorizo empanadas or cheese & jalapeno quesadillas. Sports fans will be pleased to hear Casa Bonita will be screening Wimbledon and World Cup matches.
As well as two bars inside (with the basement available for private hire), there is also some alfresco space on Kingly Street if you want to enjoy the fresh air with your tipple.
- Casa Bonita, 5 Kingly Street, Soho, W1B 5PF. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus. Opening hours: (Ground Floor) Mon-Sat 2pm-1am, Sun 2pm-11pm. (Basement) Mon-Sat 5pm-1am, Sun 5pm-11pm. Also available for private hire. Tel: 0203 696 0070. For more information, visit the Casa Bonita website.
For a guide to what’s on in London in August 2018, click here.
The mighty Margarita is surely one of the world’s sexiest cocktails. To many of us, drinking one can prompt thoughts of palm trees, sunsets and warm summer nights. While there have been many twists on the concoction, this year marks the 70th anniversary of the original Margarita cocktail.
To celebrate this notable birthday of one of the world’s favourite tipples, orange liqueur brand Cointreau has teamed up with London’s South Place Hotel to create a pop-up. The Acapulco bar will bring a slice of Mexico to the Secret Garden at the plush City hotel from 29 June until 15 September. The space is well prepared for all weathers with a retractable roof and heaters available should our fickle British summer let us down.
Situated on the first floor of the South Place Hotel, the Margarita Loves Cointreau pop-up will feature cocktails, waterfalls and palm trees. The venue takes inspiration from creator Margaret ‘Margarita’ Sames, who famously declared, ‘a Margarita without Cointreau is not worth its salt’. The pop-up will be serving classic Margaritas, as well a twists on the original, with flavours such as lavender, fruity or citrus chai. The pop-up will also feature a special hot line at the bar so drinkers can ring up and order a Margarita at any time.
During the summer, there will be a selection of Margarita-infused special events. On 22 July, 12 August and 19 August will be Mexican-inspired Sunday brunches. Meanwhile, there will be Margarita masterclasses and DJ sets every Friday.
- The Cointreau Acapulco Pop Up opens from 29 June until 15 September 2018. At the Secret Garden, South Place Hotel, 3 South Place, City of London, EC2M 2AF. Nearest station: Moorgate or Liverpool Street. For more information, visit the Cointreau website or the South Place Hotel website.
For a guide to what’s on in London in August, click here.
Last week, I went along to the launch of The Little Blue Door. The opening is a sequel of sorts to The Little Yellow Door, which opened as a pop-up in Notting Hill, but ended up remaining for three years. The concept is a flatshare, where guests can hang out with their pals over cocktails and food and make new friends. Setting up camp in Fulham, this double-fronted property has been transformed from a traditional shop, with a hallway, kitchen, living room, study and even a laundry room, which really gives the venue a homely feel.
Walking down Fulham Road, it would easy to walk straight past TLBD, with no signage except its simple blue door. Entering the venue, you’re in a lovely entrance hall, complete with grandfather clock and a cosy window seat. Straight-ahead is the kitchen – the hub of all house parties. I’ve got to admit I suffered some interior design envy at the kitchen-bar hybrid with its colourful tiles, where you can order frozen cocktails, served in a mini blender. I had a fabulously fruity ‘Shaun of the Dead’ cocktail (Bacardi rum blend, raspberry, cherry and lime). The kitchen features several tables, which will play host to their legendary supper clubs, which were constantly sold out for three years at their predecessor The Little Yellow Door.
When you’re ready to party, the main action is in the living room. It’s an expansive space with a long bar, lots of comfy sofas, armchairs and stools, surrounded by the artwork and eccentric decorations of the housemates, including a taxidermy fox. It took my friends and I a while to realise the ‘vase of flowers’ nearby was actually a hidden cocktail full of straws, so we were invited to have a drink of the flower water, which tasted great! During the evening, we sampled some canapes, including lobster, mezze and the absolutely delicious Cam ‘N’ Bert’ (Baked Camembert served with Truffle Honey, Roast Pear and Sugared Almonds).
The domestic theme follows throughout with the hidden study available for private groups, with gaming consoles and safes for regulars to keep some surprises hidden. Meanwhile, one of the big talking points was the Prosecco vending machine in the back hallway. There’s no need to wait at the bar as you can get your own mini bottle of classic or rose Prosecco in seconds from the machine. Overall, it’s a great venue for catching up with friends. The décor managed to be both homely and stylish and really gave a welcoming feel. The cocktails and food were fabulous, so I’m really looking forward to returning for one of their supper clubs or bottomless brunches.
- The Little Blue Door, 871-873 Fulham Road, Fulham, SW6 5HP. Nearest station: Parsons Green. Open: Wed-Thurs: 6pm-12pm, Fri: 6pm-1.30am, Sat: 11.30am-1.30am, Sun: 11.30am-6pm. Tel or Whatsapp: 07538 229 096. Email: Justknock@thelittlebluedoor.co.uk. For more information, visit The Little Blue Door website.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.
Launching just in time for summer is an exciting new drinking concept. Moonshine Saloon will bring an immersive Wild West experience to the streets of West London. The pop-up BYOB bar comes from the same team behind the hugely popular Alcotraz. Launching on 31 May, Moonshine Saloon are pitching their waggons on the King’s Road for a limited three-month run.
The pop-up will let wannabe cowboys step into the Wild West’s undercover world of moonshine. Arriving at the entrance with their own booze in hand, apprentice moonshiners will head down a street that looks straight out of the dusty old west. They’ll stop with a tailor to get measured up for cowboy gear and Stetson hats so they blend in and don’t attract the Sheriff’s attention.
Once, they are suited and Stetson-ed up, guests will be given exclusive access into the shadiest spirit making business as they are welcomed in by the King of the Moonshiners. Heading downstairs to the Saloon itself, apprentice Moonshiners can try their hand at card and dice games, share their wildest stories of life in the West and enjoy their personalised moonshine cocktails. The Saloon’s talented moonshine pros – aka the mixologists – will be creating your own special cocktail with your choice of liquor. Those who successfully manage to evade the long arm of the law, can also stop for a refreshment in the General Store before heading back to their ranch.
Founder Sam Shearman explained: “With Alcotraz we created London’s first immersive cocktail bar, which placed guests at the centre of the action and allowed for theatre to take place around them whilst delicious cocktails were enjoyed. Moonshine Saloon will take this to a completely new scale, creating a new world as opposed to simply a new bar!”
- Moonshine Saloon is open from 31 May – 25 August 2018. At 535 Kings Road, Fulham, SW10 0SZ. Nearest station: Fulham Broadway. Open Wed-Fri 6.15pm-10.15pm, Sat 12.15pm-11pm. Booking fee: £33.99 (includes 4 cocktails from brought drink of choice and 1hr 45m inside the saloon). Bookings can be made on the Moonshine Saloon website or DesignMyNight.
For a guide to what’s on in London in August, click here.
If you know your gin, then your taste buds are required to help find the world’s best gin. Graphic Bar in Soho are hosting the Gin Off 2018 awards to hunt down the finest ‘mother’s ruin’. Sixteen of the planet’s most exciting brands will be competing for the top honour in a series of heats.
Each gin brand will put forward a mixologist to create a cocktail that makes the most of their tipple. The rules state the cocktail must be served in a disposable vessel, so expect to see drinks served in quirky alternatives, such as an ice glass or hollowed-out cucumber.
The Gin Off has been taking place annually since 2015 and Audemus Spirits’ Pink Pepper Gin have reigned supreme for the past two years. For 2018, Audemus have stepped out of the competition, leaving the field open for a new champion. Brands big and small are taking part this year, including Haymans, Beefeater, Fords, Marylebone, Copperhead, Nordes, NGinious, Brooklyn, Scapegrace, Nicholson, Daffy’s, Vidda, Boxer, Thomas Dakin, Monkey 47 and Bols.
Round 1 has already taken place on 30 April, but there’s three more rounds before the semi-finals and final take place in November. For this exciting competition, it’s the guests who have the power. Each gin lover is given a polling card before going on to sample four different cocktails and voting for their favourite. The overall winner will be crowned with a Copper Still trophy and will be featured on the Graphic Bar’s 2019 cocktail menu. Graphic Bar is a stylish, contemporary bar located in Soho and boasts a selection of over 300 world-class gins.
The remaining fixtures in the 2018 Gin Off are:
Round 2: 21 May – Haymans, Daffy’s, NGinious, Scapegrace.
Round 3: 25 June – Bols, Nordes, Monkey 47, Brooklyn.
Round 4: 30 July – Copperhead, Marylebone, Boxer, Fords.
Semi-final: 24 September.
Semi-final: 29 October.
Final: 26 November.
- The Gin Off takes place on Mondays once a month until November 2018. At the Graphic Bar, 4 Golden Square, Soho, W1F 9HT. Nearest station: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus. Tickets: £10 (include 4 gin cocktails). From 6pm-9pm on relevant dates. Tickets available through Eventbrite or email email@example.com. For more information, visit the Graphic Bar website.
For a guide to what’s on in London in August, click here.
Aperol Spritz has grown rapidly in popularity in recent years and it’s certainly become my favourite tipple on a hot summer evening. With the weather nicely heating up, it’s perfect timing for the launch of an Aperol Spritz pop-up.
Throughout the summer, Londoners can relax with their favourite apéritif or cocktail at Spritz & Giggles. Open until early August, the bar is located in Broadgate Circle, near Liverpool Street, with indoor and alfresco seating. As well as plenty of drinking opportunities, there will also be entertainment and sports (including World Cup) screenings. The venue is full of colourful décor with lots of summery foliage with fun stations such as table tennis and foosball tables.
Leading the menu is the iconic Aperol Spritz, as well as the Ambra Spritz (Peroni Ambra, Aperol, Peach Syrup and Cinzano Prosecco) and Negroni. There will also be frozen cocktails for those extra hot days, including Pina Colada (Appleton Estate Signature Blend Rum, Koko Kanu Rum, Pineapple Juice and Coconut Cream) or Strawberry Daiquiri. If cocktails aren’t your thing, there is also a selection of beers, ciders, wine, Prosecco and Champagne on offer.
- Spritz & Giggles, 37 Broadgate Circle, City of London, EC2M 2QS. Nearest station: Liverpool Street or Moorgate. Open now until 10 August 2018. Open Mon-Tues 4pm-11pm, Wed-Sat 1pm-12am, Sun closed. For more information, visit the website, tel: 0207 590 5257 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a guide to what’s on in London in August, click here.