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 October 2018, click here.
Glitterbox is a huge name in clubbing culture, famous for their flamboyant and hedonistic parties in Ibiza, London and beyond. With a high glamour and inclusive vision, Glitterbox are renowned for bringing the spirit of disco to the 21st century. To mark their fifth year as they gear up for the next season in the Balearics, Glitterbox are celebrating with an exhibition of fabulous moments, music and people.
The Glitterbox experience of DJs, performers, dancers and clubbers have been captured in iconic artwork and photography over the years. Acclaimed artist and ‘Blitz Kid’ Mark Wardel will be showcasing his original work, with limited, signed prints available to purchase. Meanwhile, Glitterbox’s resident photographer Gavin Mills will be revealing never-seen-before images from five years of decadent revelry. The exhibition will also feature archive flyers, posters and graphic prints, as well as new artwork for the 2018 season.
The exhibition will span one week at the contemporary gallery, print publisher and printing studio Jealous in Shoreditch. There will also be special gallery events during the exhibition.
- Glitterbox x Jealous Gallery runs from 13 – 19 February 2018. Open 11am-7pm. Free admission. At Jealous East, 53 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, EC2A 3PT. Nearest station: Old Street or Shoreditch High Street. For more information, visit GlitterboxIbiza’s website or the Jealous Gallery website.
For a guide to what else is on in February, click here.
In the run up to Christmas, it’s the busiest time in most Londoners’ social calendars. No doubt many friends will be meeting for a cocktail (or three) in one of the capital’s various bars. With so many venues, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to places to drink. However, if you’re looking for something extra festive, why not sip on a Christmas-themed cocktail?
Here’s Metro Girl’s round-up of the top Christmas cocktails on offer in London this 2016 season:
Clapham’s late night destination has recently had a more food-focused makeover. For December, they’ve given the beloved Espresso Martini a Christmas twist – the ‘Vanilla Espression’ (£9) including Cariel Vanilla Vodka, Tia Maria, Espresso and Sugar Syrup).
For a night out with a difference, head to Soho’s secret drinking den Cahoots, which recreates post-WW2 London in a ‘tube station’. The drinks menu is heavily influenced by wartime tipples. Their festive offering is ‘The Stocking Stuffer’ (Christmas spiced Bombay sapphire, signature almond mince pie sweet mix, sultana grapes infused with Martini Rosso, pink grapefruit, topped up with Bulmers pressed red grapes cider).
- Dirty Bones
American diner Dirty Bones have created a sweet festive concoction – ‘Mince Pie Bramble’ (Bombay Sapphire gin, lemon juice, brandy and port-infused mince pie reduction (£8).
Dirty Bones – branches in Kensington Church Street, Carnaby Street and Club Row, Shoreditch. Nearest stations: High Street Kensington, Oxford Circus or Shoreditch High Street. For Metro Girl’s review of Dirty Bones, click here. Read the rest of this entry
As someone who doesn’t like to follow the crowd, I’m a huge fan of speakeasy bars. I love the idea of venturing into a secret bar or restaurant that only a few know about. Barts in Sloane Avenue has been on my to-do list for quite some time and this week, I finally paid a visit to attend the launch of the venue’s new Comic Book menu.
Barts is located in Chelsea Cloisters – a 1930s apartment block on Sloane Avenue. You’ll have to hunt a bit to find it – there’s no neon street sign guiding you to your destination. We eventually found the hidden door and rang the bell, prompting a tiny letterbox-sized window to open revealing a pair of eyes to check if you’re not the fuzz. Once we entered, we were greeted by an intimate, quirky space featuring cosy red and wood interiors. Vintage Bric-à-brac, such as taxidermy, lampshades and tennis racquets, adorned the walls.
The venue originally opened in 2009 and describes itself as ‘London’s worst kept secret’. However, the team behind Barts have decided to shake thing up and have launched a new Comic Book menu. The new drinks listings come in the form of, you guessed it, a comic book, which tells the story of how Chicago gangster Uncle Barts crossed the Pond and started his bootlegging business in Chelsea’s mean streets. Aside from the obvious of being a place to peruse the alcoholic concoctions on offer, the menu also gives you something to read (handy when your friend or date is running late!) and provides an entertaining back story to some of the innovative cocktails. The menu is separated into eight chapters (e.g. ‘The Real McCoys’ and ‘Most Wanted’), with each having a distinct theme and with boozy mixes complementing Uncle Bart’s adventures animated on the opposing pages.
After spending rather longer than we expected perusing the extensive menu, we settled on the Charleston Crumble (Grey Goose vodka, cranberry juice, rhubarb purée and vanilla syrup) and the Jazz Singer (Russian Standard Original vodka, passion fruit purée and vanilla syrup). On reflection, they had very similar ingredients, but tasted rather different. Mine was the Charleston, which tasted like a dessert and I absolutely loved it. When I tried a bit of my friend’s Jazz Singer, it was more fruitier. Next up, my companion wanted something a bit more dramatic – the intriguingly named Kidnap & Handsome. When the drink arrived at our table, it made quite the entrance. A short tumbler was oozing smoke under a bell jar, with the gangster theme continuing with dollar bills, a lipstick-smudged playing card and chocolate truffle. The drink itself was a mix of sweet and bitterness – Sauvelle vodka, oak-infused vanilla syrup and oak bitters. My choice, The Alchemist (Belvedere vodka, elderflower cordial, mint, gomme syrup and cloudy apple juice) was decidedly less theatrical in a simple coupe glass, but refreshing and subtly sweet.
Drinks aside, Barts also plays host to regular parties and live entertainment. During the night, we were entertained by the fabulous, feel-good vocals of the Haywood Sisters, who really fitted into the retro vibe. Barts regularly have live music on the bill so it’s worth checking out their website.
Overall, we had a great evening – the service, venue and drinks were all exceptional. I loved the intimate feel of the bar, while the staff were friendly and clearly knew their stuff when it came to mixology. Barts would be a great venue to impress a date or celebrate a birthday. I’m off to join Uncle Barts’ mob!
- Barts, Chelsea Cloisters, 87 Sloane Avenue, Chelsea, SW3 3DW. Nearest stations: Sloane Square or South Kensington. For more information, visit the Barts website.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar reviews, click here.
Aquum has been one of Clapham’s late-night staples since it opened back in 2007. However, with nightlife appetites evolving in recent years and becoming more food orientated, it’s time to roll with the changes. Last week, I was invited to the re-launch of the Clapham High Street venue, which has added to new dining element to its drinking and dancing hotspot.
Aquum has had a makeover in both its design and its format, with the addition of a restaurant making it a more versatile day-to-night destination. Taking over the kitchen is Head Chef Anastasios Tologlou (previously at Medlar, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and Coloniales Huerta in Valencia), who has conceived a menu inspired by his Greek roots and his experience in some of the world’s top restaurants. The new menu features a variety of light dishes, sharing plates and mains. During the evening, we tried some delicious tasters, such as the Razor Clam and Black Eyed Bean Salad and the particularly fun Halloumi Martini – described as a ‘modern twist on the classic Cypriot dish’, featuring grilled Halloumi cheese soaked in a herb essence.
While Aquum hopes to attract a wider audience for its restaurant, it will continue to stay open late on weekends for DJs taking to the decks. The venue’s mixologists have created a new menu, full of original cocktails and twists on some old classics. We started with some Kir Noirs (Pinot Noir syrup, cherry syrup and Mercier Champagne), which were refreshing and subtly sweet. Next up, was the very girlie-named Twinkle, which appealed to me because of its elderflower ingredient – which has been having a resurgence in popularity over the last couple of years and is one of my favourite flavours. Served in a martini glass, the combination of Elderflower cordial, Eristoff vodka and Mercier Champagne managed to taste both strong and light at the same time. A few of those and you’d be well on your way to a good night out!
Aside from the new eating dimension, the venue has also had a design makeover. Aquum is now spread across four levels, with a second bar and private dining/events space available. The white leather seating has been stripped out for a more contemporary stone and dark leather seating. Many of the nightlife venues on Clapham High Street have been looking rather tired of late, so it’s great to see one of them taking a new approach. Both the drinks and food I sampled so far were different and delicious, so I look forward to returning in future for a weekend which will start with dinner and end with dancing.
- Aquum, 68-70 Clapham High Street, Clapham, SW4 7UL. Nearest stations: Clapham North, Clapham High Street or Clapham Common. For more information, visit the Aquum website.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.
As much as we’d like to see consistently warm weather throughout the summer, unfortunately British climes cannot always be relied upon. However, one venue in Soho will be keeping up the summer spirit come rain or shine.
The capital’s first beach club bar Myki Sand Bar is a new pop-up in the heart W1. Located on the lower ground floor of Archer Street, guests will be transported to a tropical world, featuring palm trees, golden sand, glamorous beach backdrops and ceiling sails.
Among the drinks on offer will be a special menu of bespoke cocktails curated by Cîroc vodka, featuring its Cîroc Blue Stone, Cîroc Pineapple and the exclusive new Cîroc Pink Grapefruit in the mix. Inspired by international beach clubs, the signature Heatwave (Cîroc Blue Stone, peach liqueur, lime, chilli bitters and orgeat) and Yes I Like Piña Coladas (Cîroc Coconut blended with cream, pineapple, Coco Lopez and a pinch of salt) will be getting revellers feeling fruity!
The Myki Sand Bar will be open from Thursday to Saturday, with VIP booths available so you can party with your pals while sinking your feet into the sand. The Archer Street team will also be keeping drinkers entertained with live music, while DJs will be taking to their decks as they bring a taste of Ibiza to London.
- Myki Sand Bar @ Archer Street, 3-4 Archer Street, Soho, W1D 7AP. Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Circus. Myki Sand Bar is open Thursdays to Sunday from late May until the end of 2016. For more information, visit the Archer Street website.
Opening in Brixton this month is the latest branch of Latin-themed bar and restaurant Barrio. Following on from their venues in Soho, Shoreditch and Islington, this is Barrio’s first venture south of the river. I’ve previously visited the central and northern branches and was fortunate enough to be invited to the launch of the Brixton outpost last week.
Barrio is a late-night drinking and dining destination offering Latin American food and drinks. Any Spanish-speakers may be familiar with the word ‘barrio’, which means an urban community or district. With this in mind, the Barrio bars give a flavour of South America with lots of colours, the rich flavours and a friendly, inclusive atmosphere. Like its sister venues, Barrio is a vivacious venue with its multi-coloured interior luring you in. A popular place to sit will no doubt be the converted caravan with its incorporated seats and tables, while there will be an outdoor patio during the warmer summer months.
Upon arrival, we grabbed one of the tables by the bar and perused the cocktail menu, with tequila, pisco and rum some of the dominant ingredients. We started off with the Che Guava (Santa Teresa Rum, Vida Mezcal, Guava, Passion Fruit and Lime), a sharp, refreshing and fruity concoction. I then switched things up and tried a gin cocktail – the South Sea Sour (Beefeater Gin, Cointreau, Pineapple, Grenadine, Lemon and Bitters). Despite the multiple alcohol ingredients, it didn’t actually taste half as boozy as I expected with the different flavours really complementing each other.
The food menu features highlights from Latin American cuisine, including Peruvian and Mexican, among others. My friend really enjoyed the Lima Lickin’ Chicken with Sweet Potato Fries (marinated fried chicken with lemon popcorn and panca chili dip). I ordered one of my favourite Latin dishes from Peru – the Ceviche Amarillo (Cobia white fish, Aji Amarillo Tigers Milk, Avocado, Red Onion, Coriander and Chifles Plantain Chips), which tasted delicious, incredibly fresh and was a perfect sized portion to accompany cocktails.
Overall, Barrio Brixton is good addition to the area’s nightlife. The bar is fresh, energetic and warm with a variety of flavoursome food and drink to keep revellers interested. After being a frequent visitor to the Soho branch in recent years, I’m thrilled there’s one closer to my home.
- Barrio, 30 Acre Lane, Brixton, SW2 5SG. Nearest station: Brixton. For more information, visit the Barrio website.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.
This is last year’s guide. For the 2016/2017 guide to New Year’s Eve in London, click here.
Can you believe 2015 is nearly over? Many people can’t wait to put the year to bed once and for all, but why not say goodbye in style and welcome 2016 with a bang. For those who want something a bit more exciting than staying in a M&S Meal For Two and Jools Holland, there’s a host of celebrations, from clubbing, to meals and fancy dress or fireworks, depending on your taste and budget. With all the listings below, I would highly recommend booking in advance to take advantage of some early bird prices and to avoid disappointment as many will sell out. Many events won’t be taking walk-ups. The festivities have divided into the best events in Central, North, South, East and West London to help you plan your last night of 2015.
Don’t forget, TFL will be providing free public transport from 11.45pm on New Year’s Eve until 4.30am on New Year’s Day.
- New Year’s Eve firework display over the River Thames
Thousands expected to take to the north and south of the River to watch the fireworks display near the London Eye. Since 2014, City Hall has introduced a £10 fee to cover costs. Tickets went on sale in early December. There will be a lot of congestion or potential closures of some tube stations around the Embankments so check with TFL before you travel. For more information of where you can and can’t access without a ticket, visit the London.gov.uk website.
- Bourne & Hollingsworth Presents: The Midnight Ball
Step back in time to a time of balls, princesses and heroes. Featuring live music, cocktail bar, DJs and horse-drawn carriage rides. Dress code: Black tie for men and cocktail dresses/ballgowns for ladies. 9pm–3am. Early bird £50, General admission £60 (9pm – 3am), Cocktail and canapé reception plus general admission – £90, (7pm – 3am, includes glass of champagne on arrival, canapés and bowl food from 7.30pm). The Dutch Hall, 7 Austin Friars, City of London, EC2N 2HA. Nearest station: Liverpool Street or Bank. For tickets, visit Ticketporte.
- New Year’s Eve Stand Up Show – Comedy Store
Start your night off with some comedy from MC Paul Thorne, Mike Gunn, Pete Johansson, Marlon Davis and Rob Deering. After you’ve laughed yourself silly, there will a DJ spinning tracks after for some dancing. Doors open at 5pm, 2 shows at 6pm and 9.30pm. Tickets £29-£49. The Comedy Store, 1a Oxendon Street, SW1Y 4EE. Nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square. For more information, visit the Comedy Store website.
- Prohibition 1920s New Year’s Eve party
Say hello to 2016 in 1920s style at this prohibition-themed party, includes live music, gramophone DJs, gambling, dancers and cocktails. Must dress in 1920s costume. 9pm-2am. Tickets: £45. In a secret London location. For more information, visit the Bourne And Hollingsworth website.
- Cahoots presents a New Year’s Eve Knees-Up
Welcome in 2016 in post-war style, with a champagne reception, entertainment from Hotsie Totsies and DJ Emilio playing fabulous jazz and lindyhop. 8pm-4am. Tickets: £120 (bar), £150 (table) – Includes Moët Et Chandon champagne reception, bottomless Belvedere cocktails, bottle of house spirits for two, plus food rations served all evening. Dress code: Debonair vintage. Cahoots, 13 Kingly Court, Soho, W1B 5PW. Nearest tube: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus. For booking, visit the Cahoots website. For Metro Girl’s review of Cahoots, click here.
- Amor Boat Party
Party as you cruise down the Thames, while having the best view of the capital’s fireworks on this four-hour boat party. House music by Amor and Space DJs over two decks. Boat party 8.30pm-1am, After-party @ Konnect in Victoria from 8pm-6am. Tickets: £25-£115. Boat departs from Westminster Pier. Nearest station: Westminster. For more information, visit the Amor Boat Party website.
Anyone that follows my Instagram profile may have noticed I love cocktails. So it’s no surprise that I’m a huge fan of London Cocktail Week – an annual celebration of mixology. This year sees the team from Drink Up London hosting LCW for a sixth year in a row from 5 to 11 October 2015. For those who don’t know, LCW sees hundreds of venues across the capital get involved with special drinks promotions and events.
The main way to get the most of LCW is to buy a £10 wristbrand, which entitles you to £5 cocktails at participating venues. Last year, a large group of girlfriends and I picked up our wristbands from one of the LCW hubs and after trying one of the in-house cocktails, went on an epic bar crawl around Covent Garden, Soho and Fitzrovia, taking in about 7 or 8 bars. Many of the venues had one special LCW drink available so it was a night for experimenting (and mixing spirits… oops). I recommend to start early and also make sure you enjoy a good meal beforehand or during.
You can order your wristband online or buy one from the hub at the Vinyl Factory, 51 Poland Street in Soho, where there will also be bars and special events, or the London Cocktail Week Village at Old Spitalfields Market.
Here’s just some of my highlights during this year’s London Cocktail Week…
A one hour cruise from King’s Cross’s Granary Square on a canal boat. Daily throughout LCW. Price: £30pp.
Cocktail masterclasses from the bartenders at Happiness Forgets in Hoxton. Daily throughout LCW. One hour long. £20pp
Eat and drink your way through Soho on a guided walk by local chef Michelle Francis, who will share the history, architecture and culture of the area along the way. Friday 9 and Saturday 10 October. £69.50.
Pop-up bar for whiskey fans in Kingsland Road. Daily throughout LCW. Free entry for LCW wristband holders.
Chambord Black Raspberry Liquer are hosting a party at Brixton’s Sovereign Loss on Thursday 8 October. Featuring live music and Prohibition-style cocktails. Free entry for LCW wristband holders.
Enjoy cocktail courses paired with British American tapas in the Green Room at the House of Vans underneath Waterloo station. Thursday 8 October. £38.50.
Bringing the event to a close with a knees-up and oysters at the East London Liquor Company near Victoria Park. Sunday 11 October until midnight.
And here’s some reviews of participating bars…
- London Cocktail Weeks runs from 5 to 11 October 2015. For more information, visit Drink Up London.
For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.
Easter Holidays means different things to people – chocolate, bunnies, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ and two bank holidays. However, to many parents and guardians it also means – eek, how do we keep the children entertained for two weeks?
My monthly ‘what’s on guides’ include many activities on in London during April, however for those looking for more family and Easter-centric ideas of what’s on during the holidays, I’ve put together listings of things to keep you occupied. However, it’s not all for the kids, with a special section at the bottom with adults-only Easter fun.
For a guide to what else is on in London this month, click here.
- 27 March – 12 April : Clapham Common Easter Funfair
A host of funfair rides will be descending on Clapham Common, including Big Apple Coaster, Dodgems, Bungee Trampolines, Tea Cups, Waltzer, Inflatable Slide and Carousel, among many others. 12-9pm. Wristbands: £8.99 for riders over 1metre tall, £6.99 for those under 1metre, which includes free rides within three-hour slots. Clapham Common, Windmill Drive, SW4 9AR. Nearest station: Clapham Common, Clapham South or Clapham Junction. For more information, visit the Irving Leisure website.
- 28 March – 5 April : Easter Egg Hunt @ Battersea Park Zoo
Find out what zoo animals will be holding Easter eggs? Visitors can purchase a £1 (including prize) quiz sheet upon entry and follow the trail. General admission: Adults £8.95, Children 2-15 yrs £6.95. Battersea Park, Chelsea Embankment, Battersea, SW11 4NJ. Nearest station: Battersea Park. For more information, visit the Battersea Park Zoo website.
- 28 March – 10 April : Spring Holidays @ Museum Of Childhood
Various activities are taking place over the Easter holidays, including make your own paper houses and story workshops. Admission is free. Museum Of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green, E2 9PA. Nearest tube: Bethnal Green. For more information, visit the Museum Of Childhood website.
- 28 March – 12 April : Shaun The Sheep @ Kew Gardens
Aardman’s famous woolly character Shaun The Sheep is the theme of this year’s Easter activities at Kew Gardens. As well as visits from real sheep, there will also be springtime trail, welly wanging, face-painting, chocolate workshops and an Easter Egg hunt on 5 April. Tickets (general entrance): Adults £15, Children 16 and under free. Activities vary in cost from free to £5. Kew Gardens, Brentford Gate, Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AB. Nearest tube: Kew Gardens. For more information and tickets, visit the Kew Gardens website.
- 28 March – 12 April : Death By Chocolate @ London Dungeon
If you dare, risk ‘death by chocolate’ with the deadly Miss Edmonds at her toxic sweet shop. Every guest on the first tour of the Easter holiday period will receive a limited edition box of Miss Edmonds Violent Screams. Tickets: Adults £20.50 (online), Children £16.50 (online), more on the door. London Dungeon, Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB. Nearest tube/train: Waterloo or Westminster. For more information and tickets, visit the London Dungeon website. For Metro Girl’s review of London Dungeon, click here.
- 28 March – 12 April : Easter @ WWT London Wetland Centre
The London Wetland Centre are hosting several activities over Easter including a giant Easter duck hunt and decorate a duckling. Some activities include a £1 donation. General admission tickets: Adult £11.48, 4-16 years £6.30, family tickets £32. London Wetland Centre, Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, Barnes, SW13 9WT. Nearest train station: Barnes or Barnes Bridge. For more information, visit the London Wetland Centre website.
- 28 March – 25 May : Shaun In The City Art Trail
Fifty 5ft tall sculptures of Shaun The Sheep will be cropping up around London for two months. High profile artists, designers and celebrities have customised the giant sculptures, which will be scattered across the capital, in locations such as Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Carnaby Street, St Paul’s Cathedral, Chinatown, The View from The Shard and The Tower of London. For more information, visit the Shaun In The City website. For Metro Girl’s blog post on Shaun In The City, click here.
- 3 April : The Passion of Jesus
The Wintershall Players put on a production of The Passion Of Jesus on Good Friday in Trafalgar Square. There will be two performances at 12pm and 3.15pm. Free. Nearest tube: Charing Cross, Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus. For more information, visit the Greater London Authority website.