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’s on in London in March, click here.
Long days and warmer temperatures mean summer is fast approaching. When the sun comes out, then I believe there’s nowhere better to be than a rooftop bar. Boasting one of the best views in the capital is Skylight, which is returning to East London for the summer season. Situated near the borders of the City of London and the East End, Skylight boasts a stunning skyline vista, plenty of food and drink options and the opportunity for lawn games. Having visited the original launch last summer and its winter makeover last November, I returned this week to check out its new summer 2018 look.
Skylight spans three floors of bars at the top of Tobacco Dock’s car park. There’s plenty of space both alfresco and undercover so there’s somewhere to take cover if the weather changes. We particularly liked the top-level, platform bar with its comfortable lounge-style seating and the best views in the place for sunset. The vista includes The Shard, Gherkin and the Walkie Talkie, as well as the nearby Hawksmoor pepper pot towers of the St George in the East church.
The bars were well equipped with a range of drinks to suit all tastes, including seasonal cocktails, spritzes, pitchers, bubbly, wine and craft beer on tap. We tried the refreshing Watermelon Mojito and a traditional G’n’T as perfect sunset downers. There’s also culinary options downstairs in the covered lower floor, with Yiro serving Greek food, while Flip Side is offering burger and chips options. We had some halloumi and salad wraps from Yiro which were nicely chargrilled and tasted lovely.
As well as the typical rooftop options of drinking and eating, Skylight offers a range of lawn games and other activities. There are four croquet lawns and two pétanque courts, as well as a penalty shoot-out football game, with tournaments and prizes giveaways. We tried the croquet and I was just as spectacularly bad as my previous attempt last year – it’s a lot harder than it looks! If you prefer to spectate rather than play, Skylight will be showing World Cup and Wimbledon matches on the big screen. Throughout the summer, there will be regular DJ nights from residents Gold Teeth and Coastal Haze, as well as daytime events such as rooftop yoga.
- Skylight, Tobacco Quay (Pennington Street entrance), Wapping, E1CW 2SF. Nearest station: Shadwell or Wapping. Open from 3 May until 23 September 2018. Open Thu-Fri 5pm-11pm, Sat-Sun 12pm-11pm. Free entry, but large groups over 10 are recommended to pre-book. Croquet: Indoor £25, Outdoor £35 (45 min game), Petanque: £15 (2-4 players). For more information, visit the Skylight London website.
For a guide to what’s on in London in August, click here.
Following its launch earlier this year, Skylight became a popular summer destination for rooftop drinking, food and games. Although many rooftop venues have closed for the winter, the Tobacco Quay destination has had a festive makeover. Launching last week, Skylight has been transformed for the winter season with the installation of an ice rink. Although smaller than other alfresco rinks, the Skylight one’s unique selling point is it offers fabulous views of the London skyline while you skate.
I went along to the launch last week having previously visited the venue in the summer and was impressed by how much it had changed. Despite anticipating it would be chilly and windy, I was pleasantly surprised. The top level features two bars – one enclosed in a heated tent and a pergola – heated too – with plenty of seating and blankets if you’re feeling cold. The lower-level is enclosed and include a fondue station, bar, lots of neon and alpine-esque furry seating and day beds. It’s a warm and cosy place which makes a great retreat after a whirl on the ice. There’s also an ice hockey slap shot outside if you’re looking to let off some steam.
The bars serve a wide range of beers, cider, spirits, winter cocktails and mulled wine. We tried the Apple Crumble, a rum and apple concoction that certainly gave us a warm and fuzzy feeling. Meanwhile, cheese fans will be in their element with the fondue station.
Overall, it’s a great, versatile destination for a wintry night out. The abundance of heating means you’re unlikely to be cold for long, which would usually be my main aversion to outdoor winter venues. There was plenty to keep us occupied and it was a nice change to have a great view while ice-skating. Instagrammers will find there’s plenty of material to pose against with Skylight’s neon and stunning vistas.
- Skylight, Tobacco Quay (Pennington Street entrance), Wapping, E1CW 2SF. Nearest station: Shadwell or Wapping. Free entry to Skylight. Under 18s allowed until 6pm. Open 2 November 2017 – 14 January 2018. Skating tickets: £10 (45 minutes). For booking, visit the Skylight London website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in December, click here.
For a guide to London’s open-air ice rinks this winter, click here.
Coming to London’s East End this summer is a new rooftop destination with a lot more to offer than just alfresco drinking. Skylight in Wapping opens on 25 May offering three levels of summer fun with views of the City of London. Styled as an urban lawn club, the nightspot will offer cocktails, street food, croquet, petanque and more.
Coming from the team behind Tobacco Dock and Interact, this new venue is breathing new life into an unused space with room for up to 600 people. Situated above the 19th century, listed Tobacco Dock, Skylight will have awesome views of The Shard, Walkie Talkie and The Gherkin, among other iconic London sights.
On long summer nights, Londoners can head to the rooftop to enjoy an array of indoor and outdoor games. Skylight features two petanque courts, lawn bowls and three croquet lawns.
For those interested in drinking, there will be bars on every level, offering summery spritzes, cocktails and beer. The Blue Moon bar and lounge sky terrace will boast the best views in the place to sink a drink while watching the sunset. If you’re feeling peckish, several street food names have set up camp for the summer, including We Serve Humans burgers and Yiro Greek street food.
- Skylight, Tobacco Quay, Pennington Street entrance, Wapping, E1CW 2SF. Nearest station: Shadwell or Wapping. Open all summer from 25 May 2017 on Thu-Fri 5pm-11pm, Sat-Sun 12pm-11pm. Free entry. Croquet costs £20-£30ph for teams up to 6 people, Petaque costs £15 per 30 mins for teams up to 4 people. For more information, visit the Skylight website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in September, click here.
In late June 2016, a new venue opened on the fringes of the City of London. Located just behind St Katharine Docks is Trade Union, a versatile dining, drinking and lifestyle destination. Situated in Thomas More Square, the vast space clearly isn’t your average bar or restaurant. Open daily until late, Trade Union is one-stop shop for eating, drinking and ticking off a few errands… thanks to an on-site barbers and florist.
I went along to the launch last month and absolutely loved the concept. Located on the ground floor, surrounded by modern blocks, Trade Union features outdoor terraces. Inside, the vast space is split into different areas – depending on what you’re looking for. With exposed concrete, cosy orange booths and even a slide from the mezzanine floor, the venue has a cool, industrial theme, very much in keeping with its modern surroundings.
For daytime and early morning visitors, specialty coffee makers Vagabond have a café in the corner serving up a caffeine fix. Next door, is Drakes of London barbershop so you can givw your beard or hairline a quick trim in between coffees. Meanwhile, Maua London will be selling fresh flowers. I picked up some absolutely stunning roses.
On the night in question I visited, I was mainly focused on trying the bar and restaurant. The kitchen includes a choice of sourdough pizzas from the Bushwick Pizza Co, as well as a seasonally changing menu with European classics and signature dishes. My friend and I tried the delicious pizza, which went down a treat, as well as Veal and Pork Meatballs and Cornish Crab Cobb Salad. I particularly enjoyed the crab and pizza and needed no encouragement when subsequent portions were offered to us. In terms of drinks, I sampled several different cocktails from their substantial drinks menu, with beers, wine and sparkling also on offer. The friendly bar staff made a good Mojito, which was a perfect mix of boozy and mint.
Located in Wapping and near St Katharine Docks, there was a mix of locals and workers. What I really liked about the venue is its versatility. You could easily come here for a work meeting over coffee, then stay on until the evening to unwind with some cocktails and dinner. The concept of having so many different businesses under one space is refreshing and I hope Londoners embrace it. The slide was particularly alluring and I can imagine would be quite entertaining after a few drinks. Unfortunately during my first visit, I was wearing a skirt, so had no intention of getting on a slide! I’ll definitely be checking out Trade Union again in the near future.
- Trade Union, Thomas More Square, Wapping, E1 1YZ. Nearest station: Tower Hill, Fenchurch Street or Tower Gateway (DLR). Open 7am-1.30am. Daily Happy Hour from 4-7pm. For more information, visit the Trade Union website.
OCT 2018 UPDATE: This venue has permanently closed.
For a blog post on the neighbouring St Katharine Docks, click here.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.
A rare walk through Brunel’s Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe.
The Thames Tunnel, once one of Victorian London’s greatest attractions, hasn’t been open to the public for nearly 150 years. While thousands pass through it every day on a London Overground train, many wouldn’t be aware they are travelling through an impressive feat of engineering. In May 2014, the London Transport Museum hosted special tours for people to follow in the footsteps of Victorian Londoners by walking the tunnel as it was originally used for.
As you may have noticed, after Tower Bridge going east there is no bridge crossing the River Thames until you reach the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge at Dartford, Kent. In Victorian London, with the industrial revolution in full swing, the docks and factories east of the city were booming and it became apparent of a growing need for a river connection between docks on north and south of the river. Various ideas were considered over the years, but it wasn’t until 1823, Anglo-French engineer Marc Isambard Brunel (1769-1849) produced a plan for an underwater tunnel between Rotherhithe and Wapping using his and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s (1806-1859) new tunnelling shield patent, which revolutionised tunnel building.
With the tunnel originally planned for use by horse-drawn carriages, Marc found funding from the Duke Of Wellington, among others, and construction began in February 1825. Brunel’s team started building a shaft at Rotherhithe – which is still there today and forms part of the Brunel Museum – which is where pedestrians and (ideally) horse and carriages would enter the tunnel. In November 1825, the shaft was complete so the tunnelling could begin. Using the Brunels’ tunnelling shield, work progressed slowly, with only about 8-12 foot of tunnel being built a week. Conditions were horrible, with many workers falling ill from the sewage strewn water seeping into the tunnel. Marc’s son Isambard ended up taking over the project at just 20 years old when resident engineer William Armstrong fell ill in 1826. At one point, they started allowing visitors in to see the shield in action, charging a shilling each, to boost the spiralling budget.
In November 1827 – while the tunnel was still being built – the Brunels hosted a banquet in the tunnel for 50 guests with music provided by the Coldstream Guards. In May 1827 and January 1828, the tunnel flooded, with the later incident resulting in the loss of six men and Isambard himself narrowly escaping death. Following this, there was loss of confidence in the project and it was put on hold for seven years. However, by December 1834, Marc managed to raise enough money – including a loan from the Treasury – to resume the project. Despite more floods, fires and gas leaks, construction was finally completed in November 1841. It measured 35 feet wide, by 20 feet high and 1,300 feet long, at 75 feet below the Thames surface. It was swiftly fitted out with lighting, staircases and roadways. An engine house was built next to the shaft for machinery used to drain the tunnel, which can now be visited as the Brunel Museum. The tunnel had taken so long to build, there was no money left to construct two further shafts to transport the horse and carriages down to tunnel level. So with the original design brief unfulfilled, it was opened to pedestrians in March 1843, who entered via the Grand Entrance Halls in the shafts using spiral staircases.
After hearing so long about the delays and dramas of the tunnel construction, unsurprisingly Londoners and those from further afield were curious to see the engineering wonder. It was initially hugely popular with tourists, with 50,000 people visiting on opening day, with a total of 1 million visiting in the first three months – equivalent to half the population of London at the time. Billed as ‘the eighth wonder of the world’, visitors paid a penny to pass through the tunnel and soon found plenty of occupy them as stalls were erected in the arches between the adjoining east and west tunnels. Among the products on sale included snuff boxes, paper weights and gin flasks. In 1852, organisers hosted the Fancy Fair, the world’s first underwater fair, featuring entertainment such as tightrope artists, fire-eaters, sword swallowers and magicians. Despite the initial popularity, the novelty soon wore off and 10 years after opening, the tunnel was home to some very unsavoury characters, including thieves and prostitutes.
Investors were relieved when the East London Railway Company purchased the tunnel in 1865, with trains eventually running through it four years later after they had extended it further south. In 1884, a disused shaft was used to create Wapping station. Eventually the line came into ownership of London Underground for the East London Line and then in 2010, became a line used by London Overground.
- The London Transport Museum very rarely conducts tours to the Thames Tunnel, but keep an eye out on their events page for further openings. The Brunel Museum is open all year round, with regular tours to visit the Grand Entrance Hall. Brunel Museum, Railway Ave, Rotherhithe, SE16 4LF. Nearest Overground: Rotherhithe. For more information, visit the Brunel Museum website.
Metro Girl Likes: When you’re in the area, check out the nearby 17th century Mayflower pub with a deck overlooking the River Thames.
To read about Metro Girl’s visit to the disused Aldwych tube station, click here.
For more of Metro Girl’s London history posts, click here.