Category Archives: Nightlife
Bars, pubs, nightclubs, live music
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.
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.
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.
As the temperatures drop and the nights set in, cosying up in front of a good film is more appealing than ever. This autumn, Bluebird Chelsea is launching a weekly movie night with films, food and cocktails. Cointreau will transform the King’s Road venue’s cinema room into a wintry orangery.
Every Tuesday evening, film fans can enjoy hot food, Cointreau cocktails and popcorn as they settle down to watch a movie. Sit on a comfy sofa or chair surrounded by orange tress as you watch films that have been chosen for their popular soundtracks. Among those being screened include The Greatest Showman, Dreamgirls, Moulin Rouge! and Whiplash. By the time December arrives, things will be taking a festive turn with Love Actually and The Holiday.
On arrival, guests will receive a welcome drink of Cointreau Fizz (Cointreau, sparkling water and freshly squeezed lime juice). Cointreau will also be serving two popular concoctions from their wooden pop-up bar: Royal Sidecar (Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal, Cointreau and freshly squeezed lemon juice) and Hot Cointreau Mulled Cider (spiked Cointreau cider made with Cointreau, fresh lime juice, cider, star anise, cloves and garnished with a cinnamon stick and slices of orange and apple).
Meanwhile, your appetites are also fulfilled for as your ticket includes a Bluebird hot dog (spiced pork, pickled cabbage and chilli mayo) or a vegan burger (mushroom and edamame with sriracha mayo and baby gem). Additional food and drinks can purchased on the night.
The film programme is as follows:
30 October : The Greatest Showman
6 November : Dreamgirls
13 November : Moulin Rouge!
20 November : Whiplash
27 November : Love Actually
4 December : The Holiday.
- Bluebird Chelsea, 350 King’s Road, Chelsea, SW3 5UU. Nearest station: South Kensington. Tickets: £25 (includes film, welcome Cointreau cocktail and a Bluebird hotdog or vegan burger). For more information, visit the Bluebird Chelsea website.
To find out what’s on in London in December, click here.
The 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:
- 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 website. Read the rest of this entry
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.
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.
For a guide to what else is on in London in February, click here.
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.
- 1) Dandelyan
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.
- 6) Bar Termini
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.
- 17) 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.
- 18) Coupette
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.
- 28) Scout
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.
- 29) Three Sheets
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.
- 46) Swift
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.
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.
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.
Coming to the Underbelly Festival Southbank for the end of the season is a tantalising and thrilling show. Combining cabaret, circus and performance in a dark and daring show from the Black Cat Cabaret. The company will be coming to the Spiegeltent to première their most ambitious show yet, Black Cat: Bohemia.
Opening on 22 August, the show will feature jaw-dropping acrobatics and toe-tapping music as the 12-strong troupe showcase their impressive skills. The production sees the smart and sexy cast bring the spirit of Bohemias past, from Montmartre to Weimar Berlin, from the Hotel Chelsea to the ’80s Blitz Kids, to the 21st century Southbank.
Among the dazzling performers will be flame-haired singer and host Miss Frisky (Frisky & Mannish); aerial daredevil Katharine Arnold; acrobatic duo Charlotte & Nicolas (Cirque du Soleil, Limbo); cyr wheel maestro Jo Moss; tumbler Leon Fagbemi (La Soirée); aerial feline LJ Marles; and burlesque goddess Missy Fatale.
- The Black Cat Cabaret is performing Bohemia at the Underbelly Festival from 22 August – 30 September 2018. At Jubilee Gardens, Belvedere Road South Bank, SE1 8XX. Nearest station: Waterloo. Performances at 7.15pm (Tues-Sat) and 9.15pm (Sat only). Tickets from £19. For tickets and further information, visit the Black Cat Cabaret website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in August, 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