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

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

© Madison Vin Brule

A Vin Brule (Italian Mulled Wine)

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Madison rooftop cocktails

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

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

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

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Turning bingo on its head – cocktails, grub, DJs and amazing prizes as Dabbers Social Bingo opens in London

There’s a permanent new modern bingo hall for the younger generations launching in London this December 2018.

© Dabbers Social Bingo

Dabbers Social Bingo is the UK’s first modern bingo venue

Think bingo is just a tame evening activity for pensioners? Think again! Unless you’ve been hiding a rock, you may have heard of a resurgence of bingo in recent years. New generations of Londoners, from Generation X-ers to Millennials have been enjoying the more raucous, modern take on bingo at festivals and one-off evenings.

Coming this December on the fringes of the City and the East End is Dabbers Social Bingo. Opening on Houndsditch, this will be the UK’s first, permanent modern bingo venue. Founder Ed Wethered has teamed up with the gang behind Musical Bingo, Gospeloke, and Comedy House Party, with backing from the founder of Picturehouse Cinemas.© Dabbers Social Bingo

Dabbers is reinventing the classic game with interactive game show elements, sought-after prizes and fabulous food and drinks. Expect cocktails instead of tea, comedians stepping into the bingo callers role and incredible experiences as prizes.

As soon as you enter the venue, the lobby will pay tribute to the game’s heritage with memorabilia from the past. Grab a drink from the lively bar while listening to the live DJ. Next, grab your bingo cards and your ‘gaming drink’ ready to take your seat in the bingo arena. You have the choice of social bingo tables if you’re up for meeting some new friends or a more intimate experience in the banquette tables. Alternatively, groups can hire one of the Baller Booths and receive a free bottle of fizz. During the game, expect to be impressed by the custom-made bingo blower machine, glittering lights, pyrotechnics and a sensational sound system.

During the week will be a variety of themed nights to suit different tastes. Vintage Bingo on Tuesday will offer a more literal interpretation of the classic game hosted by veteran bingo callers. Travel junkies should head to Dabbers on Friday for Bingo Voyage, with the main prize offering a weekend away. If you fancy a boogie, head to Disco Bingo on Saturday nights for a real party atmosphere with UV lights, while Family Brunch bingo on Sunday lunchtimes are open to families.

On the drinks menu will be a selection of craft beers, cocktails and a decent wine list. As well as booze and bingo, there will also be the ‘Well Rounded Menu’, offering round food. Including treats such as melon balls wrapped in ham to round Waffles with ample Crumble and Cinnamon Sugar (vegans and vegetarians catered for too).

  • Dabbers Social Bingo, 13 – 22 Houndsditch, City of London, EC3A 7DB. Nearest stations: Aldgate or Fenchurch Street. Open Mon-Wed and Sun 12pm-11pm, Thu-Sat 12pm-3am. Dabbers Social Bingo officially launches on 3 December 2018 (soft opening from 28 November 2018). For more information, visit the Dabbers Bingo website.

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

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Bridging Home by Do Ho Suh for Sculpture In The City

Bridging Home © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

Bridging Home by Do Ho Suh for Sculpture In The City

Sculpture In The City is an annual outdoor exhibition of contemporary art around the City of London. It usually begins in June with a majority of the pieces remaining in situ for up to 12 months. However, on 24 September 2018, a new addition to the 2018/2019 exhibition was unveiled.

Bridging Home, London, 2018 is an installation by Korean artist Do Ho Suh. Erected on the footbridge over Wormwood Street, the piece is co-commissioned by Art Night and Sculpture In The City. The structure is a to-scale replica of the traditional Hanok-style Korean house that Suh grew up in, along with a bamboo garden. The installation appears to have dropped out of the sky and crash landed on the bridge. The work is a response to the migrant history of the East End and the City, along with inspiration from Suh’s own heritage.

  • Bridging Home is located on the footway bridge over Wormwood Street, City of London, EC2M. Nearest station: Liverpool Street. For more information, visit the Sculpture In The City website.
Bridging Home © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The structure is a replica of a traditional Hanok-style Korean house

Check out Metro Girl’s gallery of the 2017/2018 exhibition.

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

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45-47 Ludgate Hill: A Victorian bank masquerading as a wine bar

47 Ludgate Hill Bank © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

45-47 Ludgate Hill is a former branch of the City Bank, built in 1891

The City of London is full of old buildings originally designed to be banks. In the 21st century, there are significantly less banks and building societies due to various takeovers and mergers and the growing popularity of online banking. While many brand names have died out, some former Victorian and Edwardian bank buildings still survive today. Back in the 18th and 19th century, the sheer volume of banks meant they had to stand out amongst the competition. As their directors attempted to attract rich customers, their buildings needed to exude luxury and stability so many hired top architects to make sure their HQs and branches really looked the part. With considerably less banking names existing today, their former buildings have been repurposed for new businesses, restaurants and bars, with many keeping their original features.

Ludgate Hill City Bank Encyclopædia Britannica

A drawing of the Ludgate Hill bank in 1911 from the Encyclopædia Britannica

One such former bank no longer offering financial services is the former Ludgate Hill branch of the City Bank. Now a wine bar, this Victorian building certainly stands out as one of the most attractive buildings on Ludgate Hill. Known by many as the road leading toward St Paul’s Cathedral, Ludgate Hill is one of two London hills where the original Roman settlement of Londinium was founded in the 1st century. Around 200AD, Lud Gate was constructed – one of seven gates into the walled city. The Lud Gate was rebuilt in 1215, with its upper rooms used as a prison by the 14th century. After being rebuilt again in 1586, it lasted nearly two centuries before Ludgate and the remaining city gates were all demolished in 1760. A plaque on St-Martin-within-Ludgate church marks the location of the Ludgate, although a stone remainder of the gate is thought to survive on the eastern corner of Pilgrim Street just 100ft away. Although the gate is long gone, its name lives on in Ludgate Hill.

With the City being the commercial heart of the capital, there were a host of banks to cater for the multiple businesses nearby and the booming population in the 19th century. One such financial institution was City Bank Ltd, which was founded in 1855 by stockbroker and future Lord Mayor of London, Sir Robert Walter Carden (1801-1888). Its stunning palazzo-style headquarters at 5-6 Threadneedle Street were built in 1856 by architect W Moseley and still remain today as the 5-star Threadneedles Hotel. By 1863, the bank had deposits to £3.5million and was acting as a London correspondent for 40 foreign banks, so they could provide finance for international trade. It became a limited company in 1880 and by 1894, it had 14 branches across London, including suburban outposts in Croydon and Bromley. One of its original branch buildings (built 1889) can still be seen today at 138 Shaftesbury Avenue at Cambridge Circus.
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33-35 Eastcheap: This former Victorian vinegar warehouse is far from sour

33-35 Eastcheap © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

33-35 Eastcheap is a Victorian former vinegar warehouse in the City of London

Despite being extensively rebuilt following the Blitz, the City of London has retained many of its old street names. While some are rather humorous (e.g. Cock lane in Smithfield), others aren’t so flattering such as Eastcheap. Today, the word ‘cheap’ is used as an unattractive way to describe something low in price and quality. ‘Cheap’ actually comes from the Saxon word for ‘market’. In the Middle Ages, Eastcheap was the main meat market in the City. However, by the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution had transformed the area with offices and warehousing replacing the butchers’ stalls.

33-35 Eastcheap © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

A sculpture of a Boar’s head can be seen on the façade in a nod to the site’s history

Walking down Eastcheap today, you will see a lot of the Victorian buildings survive and are home to offices, coffee shops and the like. One particular building that stands out from the rest is No. 33-35 Eastcheap, a dramatic Neo-Gothic, double-fronted structure. Prior to No. 33-35’s erection in 1868, the site was home to the famous Boar’s Head Tavern. The pub’s exact origins aren’t known, but it was used as a meeting place by William Shakespeare in several of his historical plays, most notably Henry IV, Part I (abt. 1597). The character Falstaff was a frequent drinker at the Boar’s Head Tavern. The original tavern was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, and was rebuilt and became a pilgrimage site for Shakespeare fans. It stood on Eastcheap until 1831 when it was demolished to make way for a road widening scheme leading to the new London Bridge. At the time of demolition, the building hasn’t been used as tavern since the late 18th century and had been sub-divided into shops. The Boar’s Head sign was preserved and went on show at The Globe Theatre at Bankside in 2010.

The current building of No. 33-35 was constructed in 1868 to a design by English architect Robert Lewis Roumieu (1814-1877). Born to a Huguenot family, who had arrived in Britain 100 years before his birth, Roumieu was an original and daring architect for the time. Although many of his designs were Neo-Gothic – which was trendy in Victorian times – he did like to push the boundaries. As well as the Eastcheap building, he also designed Milner Square (Islington), the Almeida Theatre, the French Hospital in Hackney, among others. Roumieu was commissioned to design a vinegar warehouse depot for Hill & Evans at a cost of £8,170. Hill & Evans were founded in Worcester in 1830 and were, at one point, the world’s largest vinegar producers. By the early 20th century, they were selling 2 million gallons of malt vinegar a year. The company ceased trading in 1965 after 135 years of business.

No. 33-35 is a Neo-Gothic, five-storey building with a further attic storey in a slated roof. On the ground floor is a huge arched doorway which would have been used for delivery access and Devonshire marble columns. However, the current iron gates only date back to 1987. The top three-storeys feature Gothic arched bays with projected canopies over the windows. Above the second floor, central window is a sculpture of a wild boar peering through long grass – a nod to the site’s former Boar’s Head Tavern. Meanwhile, the second floor canopies to the left and right feature carved heads of Henry IV and Henry V. The building features a lot of decorative elements, including tiling, cast iron cresting, and plaster badges.

33-35 Eastcheap © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The top storey features a slated roof and cast iron cresting

When the building was completed in 1868, it certainly caused a stir, with Roumieu being labelled a ‘rogue’ architect for some of his daring styles. The British Almanac of 1869 described it as: “The style is French, but some of the details are Venetian. The general effect is novel and striking, though somewhat bizarre.” Twentieth century critics Gavin Stamp and Colin Amery were more positive, proclaiming Roumieu’s creation as “the City’s masterpiece of polychromatic Gothic self-advertisement”. Meanwhile, architectural critic Ian Nairn (1930-1983) gave it a rather dramatic review: “This is truly demoniac, an Edgar Allan Poe of a building. It is the scream that you wake on at the end of a nightmare.” Despite the critics’ mixed reviews to the building, it was Grade II listed by Historic England in 1971. Today, it is home to offices, while part of the ground floor houses a branch of Black Sheep Coffee.

  • 33 – 35 Eastcheap, City of London, EC3M 1DE. Nearest stations: Monument or Fenchurch Street.

For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.

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Sculpture In The City 2018/2019: Contemporary art lights up the Square Mile

Celebrate the mighty Margarita at the Cointreau pop-up at the South Place Hotel

Cointreau Cocktail

A lavender margarita at the Acapulco Pop Up at South Place Hotel

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.

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Holland House: A pioneering office block in the City of London

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

Holland House was designed by Dutch architect Hendrik Petrus Berlage and opened in 1916

Down a side street in the City of London lies an unusual piece of architecture. Located on Bury Street in the shadow of the Gherkin is Holland House. Today, most of the City’s architectural landmarks tend to be 17th century (St Paul’s and other churches) or late 20th century/early 21st century (Barbican, Lloyd’s Building, Heron Tower, Walkie Talkie). However, Holland House is notable for kicking off a new era of modern design in the Square Mile, decades before it was dominated by skyscrapers.

In the early 20th century, shipping was big business for both transportation of goods and people. A host of big companies had offices in London, including Cunard, the White Star Line and Wm. H. Müller & Co. The latter was a Dutch company which specialised in shipping and trading, particularly transporting ore mined in Spain and North Africa. Wm. H. Müller & Co, which was founded by German-born Wilhelm Müller in 1876, already had offices in The Hague and Rotterdam and were keen to set up a London base. In April 1913, the company’s co-owner Helene Kröller-Müller (1869-1939) bought a site on Bury Street in the City. Bury Street dates back to at least the 16th century and is believed to have been named after the Abbot of Bury, who owned nearby Bevis Marks. The firm purchased land facing the north-west and south-east sides of Bury Street (which bends around to the left), but could not buy the whole block as the owners of No.33-34 on the south-west corner refused to sell up. As a result, Holland House has two entrances on both sides of Bury Street.

Holland House © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2018

The granite relief of a steaming ship by Joseph Mendes da Costa

The Müllers commissioned prominent Dutch architect Hendrik Petrus Berlage (1856-1934) to design an office block for their London base. Berlage is known as the ‘father of Modern architecture’ in his native Holland and is responsible for the Beurs van Berlage (Amsterdam Commodities Exchange) and the Swissôtel Amsterdam. By the time construction started in 1914, World War I had begun, however building wasn’t affected as the Netherlands were neutral. When designing Holland House, it is believed Berlage took inspiration from the works of pioneering American architect Louis Sullivan (1856-1924), following a trip to the US in 1911.

Following completion in 1916, Holland House was aesthetically very different to the buildings surrounding it. Said to be the first steel framed building in Europe, it features a black marble plinth base with green-grey glazed terracotta bricks rising up and projecting outwards. The bricks were made in Delft and shipped to London on Müller vessels. When Berlage designed Holland House, Bury Street was very narrow, with the old Baltic Exchange (partially destroyed in a fatal 1992 IRA bombing) standing a few metres across the road, instead of the current open courtyard at the base of the Gherkin. Due to the projecting tiled columns, you wouldn’t have been able to see the windows as you approached the building walking down Bury Street, giving an illusion of privacy. On the south-east corner of the building is a granite relief of a steaming ship by Dutch artist Joseph Mendes da Costa (1863–1939), who was a favourite of Helene Kröller-Müller. Ahead of its time, in the centre of the building was a large air well, rising up from the ground to the sixth floor. Former chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain, Peter Palumbo has claimed this may have been the first atrium in Britain.  Read the rest of this entry

Sculpture In The City 2017/2018: Contemporary art comes to the Square Mile

Merchant House Fleet Street review: Go on an exploration of whisky in a hidden cocktail bar

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

A Mulligan’s Travels (left) and a Brooklyn (right) at Merchant House Fleet Street

When it comes to finding a perfect bar, there’s two main things I look for – an extensive cocktail menu and a relatively low-key venue. I’m a sucker for speakeasies and hidden bars off the beaten track so I’m having a new experience and don’t feel I’m jostling for a spot at the bar with a big crowd. When it comes to whisky/whiskey, I’ve flirted with it in the past and am partial to a Bushmills and Coke when I’m visiting family in Ireland, but am yet to become a full whisky convert. However, after hearing of a new hidden Whisky bar in the heart of the City I went to check it out.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

A Rose Without Thorns (left) and a Karyukai (right)

Merchant House of Fleet Street is the sister bar to Merchant House Of The City in Bow Lane, the latter being a gin and rum bar with 300 varieties of each. The newer Fleet Street branch focuses on whiskys and whiskeys instead, boasting over 500 different types, predominantly from Ireland and Scotland, but also some offerings from Japan and American Bourbons. To those less experienced whisky drinkers, like myself, there can be the preconceived notion the drink is dark, strong and heavy. However, the experienced mixologists of Merchant House of Fleet Street are here to change your mind, showcasing the fresh and floral side of the mighty Scotch.

The bar is located down Bride Court, a covered alley off Fleet Street dating back to the 18th century. The venue has a natural and contemporary feel, with a rustic wood and white marble bar, lots of plants and green velvet sofas and bar stools giving a subtle nod to the Highlands and Emerald Isle. Behind the bar are huge shelves showcasing the expansive whisky collection. My boyfriend (who happens to be a bit of a whisky aficionado) and I grabbed two stools at the bar as we were looking to experiment with flavours so wanted a seat near the action.

Before we began perusing the extensive menu, we enjoyed a shot of whisky for ‘Whisky Wednesday’ to kick things off. You’ll notice the menu doesn’t list any brands under the cocktail ingredients, just a rough description of the whisky so it means you focus on the flavours instead. I’m a bit of a sucker for floral flavours such as elderflower and rose so started with a Rose Without Thorns (Island Malt, Rosehip Water, Raspberry Cordial and Americano Rosa). It was quite different to any whisky cocktail I’d had before, sweet and light and went down really well. My companion opted for a Karyukai (Japanese whiskey, plum wine and smoked water), which involved the bartender getting out a blowtorch on the water – who doesn’t like a bit of bar theatrics?! Out of the three cocktails we would try that evening, my boyfriend said this was his favourite as he particularly liked the smoky flavour.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

A sweet Émigré (left) and a strong Sazerac (right)

Next up, I continued the floral theme with an Émigré (Single Pot Still Whiskey, Bramley Apple Juice, Rhubarb and Elderflower) which came served with a big slice of rhubarb and tasted very dessert-like and I really enjoyed it. My boyfriend opted for something harder – a Sazerac (Cognac, Rye, Sugar, Bitters and Absinthe) which was served in a short glass – definitely one to be sipped slowly!

Finally, we finished with a Mulligan’s Travels (Poitin, Banana, Vanilla Ice Cream and Ginger Soda) and a Brooklyn (Rye, Sweet Vermouth, Picon and Maraschino). The Mulligan’s Travels was my first introduction to Poitin – essentially an Irish moonshine with potatoes as one of the ingredients. The bartender was happy to educate me and I tried a some of it straight before my cocktail. The strength hits you immediately, before the sweet after-taste comes in. When it came to the cocktail, it was somewhat of a hard shake thanks to its ingredients, with the sweetness overpowering the alcohol so it’s a good choice for those who don’t like their concotions too boozy tasting. Meanwhile, the Brooklyn was bittersweet mix served in a sherry glass, complete with maraschino cherry in the bottom.

Overall, it’s a fabulous bar for both whisky and cocktail fans alike. Those unfamiliar with whisky would do well to pay a visit and will be surprised at the variety of flavours in a whisky cocktail. For more seasoned whisky drinkers, with 500 to choose from, there’s more than enough choices to keep your glass topped up. When it came to the venue, the cosy space and the hidden location makes Merchant House particularly appealing. During our couple of hours in the bar, we were never without an empty glass thanks to the attentive and friendly bartenders, who certainly knew their stuff when it came to whisky and were happy to educate us. As well as cocktails, Merchant House also serves a small food menu and host whisky masterclasses if you want to delve in further.

  • Merchant House of Fleet Street, 8 Bride Court, City of London, EC4Y 8DU. Nearest stations: City Thameslink, Blackfriars or St Paul’s. Open Mon-Fri 11am-11pm. For more information, visit the Merchant House of Fleet Street website.
© Merchant House

Cosy: Merchant House features a white marble bar, lots of plants and green velvet sofas and bar stools giving a subtle nod to the Highlands and Emerald Isle

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

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