I’m a huge fan of afternoon tea and don’t have it as often as I should. I recently spent a few months working in Hoxton and regularly passed by the M by Montcalm Hotel so was glad of the opportunity to check it out when a friend invited me for afternoon tea recently. The day in question wasn’t just any typical tea session, but a special event called the Afternoon Tea Academy.
The event saw Plate restaurant at the M by Montcalm collaborating with tea company P.M. David Silva & Sons for an afternoon of tea, food and a little bit of education. Silva & Son’s Dan Silva had teamed up with Executive Chef Matt Hill to pair a different type of tea to every tier of the meal. Dan started off the afternoon by giving us a brief history of Britain’s relationship with tea and why the Sri Lankan plantations and hand-picking technique are so important to the company. P.M. David Silva & Sons is a family-run business over three generations, which started in the mid 1930s, so have a good heritage behind them.
We kicked off the Afternoon Tea with the sandwiches first (of course!), which were a lovely, flaky hybrid of bun and croissant, called the ‘crobun’. Among the fillings were one of my favourites, Chapel & Swann smoked salmon with pickled cucumber, tarragon, preserved lemon & cream cheese. There was a delicious twist on a traditional cucumber sandwich with salted cucumber with tarragon pesto, preserved lemon and cream cheese. Our tier was completed with beetroot hummus with smoked feta, pickled beetroot and lambs lettuce. I’m not usually a fan of beetroot, but the combination was really lovely. The sandwiches were paired with New Vithanakande Tea, which had a sweet caramel and fruity flavour (which turned out to be my favourite of the day).
Next we moved on to scones, with a selection of plain and raisin buttermilk available. They were warm and fresh out of the oven and a perfect size. As much as I love scones, I prefer them on the smaller side to optimise the chances of being able to complete a whole afternoon tea as I usually I end up too full. The scones were served with clotted cream and handmade strawberry preserve, along with a cup of High Grown Ceylon Tea from the Inverness estate. The tea had lovely rosy and citrus flavour, which really complemented the jam.
Finally, we just about had enough room for the top tier of pastries, which were pretty exquisite. Each treat had contrasting sweet and savoury notes, which were interesting, but delicious. I particularly enjoyed the strawberry with Szechuan pepper and basil custard tart. The remaining creations – lemon and elderflower cake; Valrhona Caledonia Jivara milk chocolate, light mango and lime crisp choux; and white chocolate and olive oil macaron, all tasted lovely. These were accompanied by the final tea – Lovers Leap, a crisp tea which we were recommended to drink black without milk.
Overall, it was great afternoon tea. Each tier was brilliant, with the various teas really complementing the different flavours of each food. It was an added treat to receive the story behind the tea blends and the ingredients in the food by Dan and Matt, who stopped to talk to us during each tier.
- Plate @ M by Montcalm, 151-157 City Road, Hoxton, EC1V 1JH. Nearest station: Old Street. For more information, visit the Plate website.
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Gigi’s Hoxton review: Summer cocktails and delicious bites at a versatile new dining, drinking and music venue
Hoxton Square is one of my favourite areas in Shoreditch because it offers what appeals to me about the area (e.g. nightlife), but also avoids the traffic and pollution that venues in Old Street, Great Eastern Street, etc, have to put up with. I’ve been socialising in Hoxton Square since the late ’90s (showing my age here!) and always thought of the area as a little nightlife enclave with great bars and a nice atmosphere.
A new addition to the East End foodie and entertainment scene is Gigi’s Hoxton. The versatile venue is an all-day restaurant, bar and music venue with an alfresco terrace and a basement sister space Hoxton Underbelly hosting comedy, live music, DJs and club nights. Taking over the former Zigfrid von Underbelly, Gigi’s Hoxton is the latest venture from Giovanna Hussain, the woman behind some of East London’s favourite venues, including The Corner Shop and The Grapevine in Shoreditch, and The Rocksteady in Dalston. I went along with a friend last week to check it out.
As a previous customer of Zigfrid (although my last visit was some years ago), I couldn’t believe how different the venue looked. The bar had been moved from its original location and the vibrant murals by Kate Philipson had really brightened up the place. The finished look is a mix of industrial and vintage-esque chic, with colourful chairs, zinc tables, a green stone bar and neon lights.
Upon arrival, we headed straight for the bar and mulled over the cocktail list. Being a balmy day, my natural choice was an Aperol Spritz, while my friend couldn’t resist the Espresso Martini (on tap!). As a seasoned Aperol Spritz fan, I’m pleased to say Gigi’s got it spot on with the right mix of bitter and sweetness. I’ve found quite a few bars/pubs don’t get the balance right, so it’s always good to see a venue getting it right.
The ground floor is essentially a L shape so we headed to the narrower section at the back to grab a table and two leather chairs. Gigi’s menus have been created by Head Chef Antonio Mollo and are influenced by his Italian heritage, as well as classic British dishes. We tried a selection of canapes, derived from the main menu, and were impressed by the creativity and flavour. One particular stand-out was the bruschetta. Although I’ve eaten the dish often over the years, I must praise this one for being so fresh and rich in taste. Other highlights were the crispy polenta, mushroom and taleggio fondue and the tortilla taco with homemade guacamole. I’ve got to mention the pea soup, Grey Goose le citron vodka sour cream shot which was a pretty unique taste for me, but I quite liked it.
Aside from the drinking and food, one of Gigi’s USPs is its music scene. After initially being treated to some soulful house and classic R&B tracks from the DJ, we were entertained with some great live music from the Blue Lion Band.
Overall, I think Gigi’s Hoxton is a great addition to east London’s nightlife. The food and drinks were equally good. The venue had a great ambiance and the DJs and live music really completed the evening. I’ll be back.
- Gigi’s Hoxton, 11 Hoxton Square, N1 6NU. Nearest stations: Hoxton or Old Street. Open Mon–Thu: 12pm–1am, Fri: 12pm–3am, Sat: 10am–3am, Sun: 10am–12am. For more information, visit the Gigi’s Hoxton website.
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The Old Street roundabout has never been one of the more attractive hubs in London. However, increasing regeneration is breathing new life into the area’s buildings and making EC1 a more attractive place to be.
As part of new office and retail quarter The Bower, a new public art installation is lighting up Old Street for the better. Renowned Dutch artists DeMakersVan have created a facetted stainless steel and glass installation inspired by Shoreditch’s industrial past.
The Art Wall is located at the City Road entrance to The Bower and is visible from the Old Street roundabout. The installation is a 21 metre long, 3-dimensional structure lit up with LED panels. The DeMakersVan brothers were inspired by the Crittal windows commonly found in Shoreditch and warped the shape. Mirrors on the interior of the structure reflect the white haze glass windows and rainbow effect glass panels, resulting in an iridescent light display.
Gerald Kaye, CEO of Helical, developer of The Bower, enthused: ‘The Bower is the perfect location for our Art Wall, which we believe encapsulates both the history of the area and the transformation of materials and aesthetics over time. We are proud to have it positioned in such a public and visible space by Old Street tube station, and hope the public enjoy this fantastic piece of art.’
DeMakersVan commented: ‘We are delighted to unveil our first installation in London, and believe the locations aesthetic complements the work and its philosophy perfectly.’
As well as the Art Wall, The Bower is also home to Bone Daddies, The Draft House, Enoteca da Luca, Honest Burger, Maki sushi bar, Good & Proper Tea and Franze & Evans.
- The Bower, Old Street roundabout, Shoreditch, EC1V 9NR. Nearest station: Old Street. For more information about The Bower, visit their website.
If there’s one time of year that’s perfect for a pop-up, it’s surely Christmas. So with festive fever gradually sweeping the capital as the countdown to Christmas goes on, a new temporary venue has opened in Shoreditch just in time for some yuletide drinking.
Santa Baby is a pop-up cocktail bar located as part of the Street Feast Xmas Grotto in Old Street. Located in the arches opposite Shoreditch Town Hall, near the junction with Kingsland Road, is a temporary venue open until 22 December.
A few friends and I visited on a Friday night and immediately loved the venue. You enter through some festive red curtains and greeted with a Christmas tree, with fairy lights and lots of vintage, comfortable sofas dotted around the long arched hall. The venue has been inspired by 1950s American living rooms, with winter scenes painted on the walls.
There were two bars in the main hall – one selling mulled champagne, egg nog, and mulled red and white wines, as well as mince pies, while another sold some more regular drinks such as beer or (non-mulled) wine. A few of us ended up plumping for a hot spiced apple rum, which was absolutely delicious, while another pal tried the mulled champagne.
With the Christmas lights and sofas, the venue had a cosy feel, although I have to admit I was a little cold at times. However, the drinks were delicious and the staff were friendly. I can highly recommend Santa Baby for those looking for a fun venue for Christmas drinks with friends.
- Santa Baby, 346 Old Street, London EC1V 9LP. Open Tues-Sun from now until 22 December 2012, 12pm-11pm. Nearest tube: Old Street or Shoreditch High Street (Overland). For more information, visit the Santa Baby Facebook page.