Category Archives: Bars
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Discover London’s best hidden and not-so-secret prohibition-inspired cocktail bars.
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.
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.
To find out what’s on in London in December, 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 2018 – 5 January 2019. 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.
To find out what’s on in London in December, click here.