Thursday, February 11, 2016

Joe's Camden, 23rd January

I think it says a lot that in the middle of January when almost the entire population of London had given up on reveling, Joe’s in Camden was heaving.


At first I thought it was just going to be us in the place, doing what we could to fill the dance floor but slowly and gradually the place filled until I suddenly became aware the place was busy as hell. And quite deserved. The place is a bar and does food during the day, but at night the jams are played and people start to jive. Every night is retro night, and they mostly play 50s and 60s rock and roll. So you can expect Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley but also the Jackson 5 and Etta James. We were rockin’ and rollin’ non stop. It’s very much an anyone’s bar – unlike a lot of the retro/vintage nights I’ve been to, the people here weren’t dressed especially authentically, nor taking up the dance floor pulling moves that would intimidate you into just gawping as an onlooker on the side. If you like Rock n Roll or Motown then this is where you want to head.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Bump Caves and Found, 22nd January

Earlier in the evening Carolyn and I stopped off for a cocktail at Bump Caves. I arrived just after 6 and was the only person in the place. Then Carolyn arrived, then one other. We wondered why it was so empty. And then all of a sudden, at around half past, the people piled in!

I liked the cocktail I ordered - The Very Last Word – and Carolyn’s Old Italian Roots was pretty good but I didn’t fall in love with the bar. A bit generic.




Bump Caves Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Found, on the other hand, I liked a lot. It was small and lively. But not too lively – a bunch of boys started getting lairy just before it closed, singing/chanting Bowie songs and the guy behind the bar told them off. They started again and he was like, seriously guys – this just isn’t the bar for that. And it’s not. Fun times, yes. ‘Lads’ getting noisy and drunk, no. It just feels like an extension of the bar above  - Casita, which is also small and lively, and friendly. I had a Sloe-ly Does it with rye, sloe gin and chambord - typically me - short and boozy. And Carolyn had the Heaven and Hell - featuring jalapeno agave, framboise and raspberry. I could have happily swapped, and easily drunk a serving two times this size.
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After this was a second outing to Cherry Cola – this was at The Macbeth but from now on they’ll be at their spiritual home of the (now renamed The Crowndale) Purple Turtle.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Great Big Kiss, 7th January

When I started my Meetup many moons ago, the very first night we went to was a 60s indiepop, northern soul night called How Does it Feel to be Loved at The Phoenix. I had never heard of it before but it was a rollicking good time and I decided I wanted to try its sister night Great Big Kiss where the focus was a little more on girl groups. Almost four years later and I crossed that off my List.

It was also held at The Phoenix which is a venue I have since come to know very well. It was a cold, rainy January night, and even though the turnout from my Meetup was actually about the same as normal, I think the number of people who would normally have come to the party was under par. We went downstairs at about 10 and it was pretty empty. It wasn’t much busier by 11 and had it not been for my Meetup group the dance floor would have been all but empty. But we’re an enthusiastic bunch and we got to dancing almost straight away. The music was a lot more authentic than I had anticipated. That's another way of saying none of us knew any of the songs. I had expected at least a few we would be able to sing along to. It was also a lot slower in tempo than we felt was ideal. More swaying than foot stomping. We suspected it might get a bit livelier come midnight, and it seemed to – a bit  - but still no songs we recognised. However, patience was key and within half an hour we were singing along to Beggin’ and Louie Louie. The night I would say had mostly focused on Northern Soul and much less on the Motown and indie it also advertised. For passing fans of the genre it was a long time to wait for the ‘good stuff’, but if you’re genuinely into this kind of music then you will love it.


You could easily tell the ‘fair weather' fans from the serious followers as they had the genuine dance moves down pat and were very much dressed the part. We weren’t. I had a fun night for sure and danced for a good couple of hours but I would probably not return to this night and go to Soul of the 60s or All shook Up instead.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Oklava, 22nd December

I read one review of Oklava and decided their food had to be in my mouth as soon as possible. With Alison (a once frequent character on these pages) back in town for a couple of nights, I thought it would be perfect for us to go and have a few bites, some wine and catch up. As it indeed was. Considering the weather was quite dreadful and it was Christmas week, it was still fairly busy and we perched at a side bar.  Choosing what to eat was an enjoyable chore as everything sounded so good. And pretty much everything I ate made me want to go back and try more. Even the moreish bread with date butter (date butter!) which shows how a simple twist could elevate something ordinary to a star dish. I can almost taste the sweet and creamy richness in my mouth right now.
The cherry pearl barley with crispy kale, yoghurt, chilli butter and curls of sheep’s cheese was so intensely flavoured it was my other star dish of the night. Next came our lamb fat potatoes (how indulgent) with salty hellim (halloumi to you and me) on the side and a rich duck egg on top. Small plates are for sharing but how I loathed giving up any of this dish to my friend.
The monkfish was good but I feel the portion was too small for me to get the most of the flavours (citrus, urfa, chilli and coriander as it happens), as again, we split it between the two of us. My friend ordered the prawns with garlic, chilli and fennel, of which I had one. These were very decently sized specimens, and succulent.

Last up was our lahmacun. We were advised to take it and roll it up with the pickles inside, which is what I did, giving me a very fresh, crunchy and light sort of burrito. I liked this, even if the lamb on the bread didn’t come through all that much.
Each of the dishes were good enough though, to make me want to pop by again to try a few more. 

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

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Cahoots, 21st December

Cahoots I must say was the very definition of a theme bar done right. With cocktails to live up to the d├ęcor.

We had already been drinking fairly heavily throughout the evening so were a bit squiffy when we finally rocked up to Cahoots at 11 and hoped there would be space for us. They were able to accommodate us at our favourite space – the bar, where we made ourselves comfortable and woofed down two tins of the complimentary popcorn (no dinner had been had that evening).

When you arrive you go into a little foyer, just like a ticketing area at a station, before you go through the ‘secret’ panels to the bar below on a mocked up underground escalator. It feels ever so fun. The place is kitted out with all sorts of Underground and 40s paraphernalia which gives it an authentic vintage atmosphere.

Before sitting, we perused the menu – cunningly disguised as a newspaper from the time – before making our final choices. This was difficult - there are pages and pages of options and they all sound either interesting, or tasty. I would say, even if you aren’t much of a fan of all things vintage and themes, the cocktails are worth a visit alone. Very delectable. I cannot remember the names of the cocktails we had but I know for sure mine was boozy and rich. We watched as an elaborate garnish of chocolate, peppercorns and possibly dried mango was created before our eyes, the chocolate poured out onto the bar and set, then sprinkled with the crunchy stuff before being set atop the cocktail. It provided a very handy extra snack for us and a sugar rush that kept us going through the night.
Some of the cocktails are very reasonably priced at around £8 but they do rise up to the £10 or £13 (or more) for the more interesting combinations. But this place is great for a treat or to impress so you'll probably be willing to splurge a little bit. Everyone go. But be warned. If you want to book in advance, they require a deposit, even if only for the two of you so if there’s any chance your plans might change, maybe best to try to wing it – go later in the evening and chance your arm. Worked for us!

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

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Kinky Salon, 12th December

The very last rule of KSL is not to gossip about what goes on there. Which is what they say at many of these parties and I really hope that my write-ups of them would not be construed in such a way. I like to keep things general and give a flavour of what goes on rather than the specifics.

KSL has been rather built up in my mind as the epitome of a sex party – where everyone’s mind is on one thing and you’d better brace yourself. As ever with these things, it wasn’t quite such an overwhelming experience. You have to arrive within one hour of the doors opening as the evening is run by volunteers and they want to get mingling too. Depending on what time you get there then, you have an hour or two to mingle before the cabaret starts.

I’d been warned that the cabaret wasn’t that great and that once it was over everyone deserted the dance floor to get to the couple’s room. This wasn’t strictly true. Firstly, I really enjoyed the cabaret – there were a couple of traditional drag acts (male drag queens) and then the Family Fierce (female drag queens) also did an act. They were fresh and very funny. It was hosted by the supersexy Lolo Brow and everything she does turns to gold anyway.

But watching the cabaret was mandatory and meant that there was no more mingling and you couldn’t go to the bar. I had felt I was building up a nice momentum before the show started and when it ended it was a bit like the lights coming on and feeling disoriented – I felt back to square one, sober and wanting to make some connections, and worried that everyone who was there had already found someone, or had come with someone to cop off with and I’d be left dancing on my own. Wanting to dance, yes, but not necessarily solo. I needn’t have worried about this as the music came on and while there was a definite shift to the other areas there were still plenty of people bopping on the dance floor or getting some drinks. Mingling was achieved.

There wasn’t a whole host of things going on other than the play room and couples room after the cabaret had ended. There was a ball pit, and some croquet although I don’t think I saw anyone play it. I personally think it would have been nice if there were other entertainments. In fact, I think if Are you Game and KSL merged it would create the perfect night – do away with the show, and have lots of excuses for people to interact with each other instead.

I had been told that KSL was quite something to behold in terms of the sex and that was true. I won’t go into detail but there is a good amount of space devoted to ‘getting into a scene’ and I have probably never seen so many naked bodies in one place. The atmosphere was sexy yet light-hearted. You have to be friendly and see the humour in things when you’re getting it on with someone in such close proximity to others doing the same thing. Tripping over a bum or accidentally sticking your foot in someone’s face while they’re preoccupied with other things is taken in good spirit.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at KSL, so much so, that the above write-up is from when I went in October and I went back again in December when things were much the same (although the cabaret this time around had suffered a drop in quality). 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Bad Egg, 7th December

Bad Egg has been on the List for quite some time, and I finally made it down. I have to say, it was a little disappointing for me but I wouldn’t write it off completely. We all chose from the burger/sandwich menu. My veggie friend got the mac and cheese burger, my other friend had the chicken burger, and I got the buffalo ribwich.

My sandwich was ridiculous. A huge, square slab of pork belly, breadcrumbed and plopped in a burger bun with buffalo sauce and (somewhere) blue cheese mayo. A delicate leaf of lettuce was almost comical in its pointlessness. I couldn’t taste the blue cheese mayo at all, against the intense tanginess of the buffalo sauce. The pork belly, though tender once you managed to get into it, was a bit tough to crack at first bite and I didn’t think it worked with the sauce at all. I wish it had been paired with a more Asian flavouring like kimchi. My friend and I both ordered fries. Would have appreciated being told that one dish was enough for two.

The mac and cheese burger, however, was pretty brilliant. A circular formation of the cheese carby stuff, it was deep fried giving the edges a crispiness much needed inside a bun.
The chicken burger, too looked great – definitely thigh meat, it had quacamole and a fried egg in it. Apparently the egg made it a bit too squishy and hard to eat but it was finished pretty quickly so I think it can’t have been too bad!

Also pretty enjoyable was this rice krispie ice cream sandwich with salted caramel ice cram and a caramel sauce. I shared with my friend as we were both stuffed but it was so good I probably could have made room for the whole thing. It could easily be too sickly for some but I could handle it. 


Bad Egg Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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This was a post-Alcoholic Architecture treat, Bompass and Parr’s room filled with Gin and Tonic mist. As with all Bompass and Parr things, it sounded better than it really was but I did enjoy it. You have to don ponchos so you all look ridiculous standing in what is quite a small room, while gin and tonic vapour swirls around you and you try to inhale as much as you can in the 45 minutes you have. Apparently you can get 2 to 3 shots worth inside you (and as you absorb it, no calories!) and my friends thought they could feel an effect but I remained unconvinced. 



About Me

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I work as an editor in educational publishing by day, and then spend most of my spare time discovering interesting things to do in London, and taking people there with my own Meetup.