Monday, August 24, 2015

C.O.L.D. Bar, 27th July

Sometimes I forget what I’ve even officially got on my List and what are places I just kinda want to go to. So I went to the COLD bar the other night thnking I’d just like to see what it was like, but in fact I have had it on my List.

So, I didn’t really take any pictures but hopefully my words will paint conjure an image for you. I went on a Monday night, assuming it wouldn’t be so busy that a reservation was in order. I was correct and had almost the pick of the place. I chose two comfy looking armchairs in the corner by the still. For COLD stands for City of London Distillery and they make gin. And besides making it, they sell lots of it too. One of my very amiable bartenders told me they have something like 320 varieties in stock. More than one could ever need. So it is no surprise that all their cocktails are gin-based. I happened to take someone who doesn’t really like gin but, starting off with a beer, he was able to wean himself onto a gin cocktail that he really liked. How so? Well, while some of them are purely gin-based, there are enough that are blended with others to create quite a non-gin taste, especially if they use the more ‘blank slate’ varieties.

As I descended the stairs I was pleased by the warm, welcoming tones of the place. Lots of soft browns, it feels like your kindly posh old uncle’s library, if such a person existed in your family. The guys bringing the drinks were chatty and knowledgeable and happy to help you choose a drink to suit your tastes or moods. My first was the millionaire, a sweet yet punchy drink with sloe gin and rum.
For my second I went the other way and ordered something more bitter, the Communist - more gin but this time some brandy too, and citrussy fruits. A good contrast to my previous, this was just as easy to drink as the first.

Sadly, this place is not cheap and much as I would have liked to work my way through the entire menu, after two drinks we departed for somewhere a little more affordable. Hidden off Fleet Street where you would never expect to find a distillery, this definitely counts as a hidden gem and would make for an impressive date venue or somewhere to go for a special occasion.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Camden Crunch, July 17th

I really wanted to go to the Camden Crunch because I knew it would be full of the kinds of people I love – warm and friendly fetish folk, some of which I would probably recognise from my attendance at other events. But I was worried I wouldn’t like it. Why? Because they unashamedly say that, unlike many other events, the music here is on the cheesy side. And I hate cheese. Its purpose is for beered up people who don’t know how to dance to jump around and not have to worry about having rhythm. That is not me.

But it all turned out better than expected. Apparently the DJ normally drifts through several genres so everyone hears something they like for at least some of the evening. But this night he seemed to get stuck in the hair metal phase – when it became apparent he had disappeared (illness). Cue the Crunch attendees to come to the rescue and ensure the party continued – by purely taking requests, only turning things down if they didn’t have it on their phone. And people were mostly requesting things I really like to dance to (RnB mostly). So that all worked out very well and I rather hope it is repeated if I go again!

Apart from that, it was just a fun night at a bar, having a few drinks and talking to several people, both new faces and old from this scene. It would be a really good entry if you are curious about these sorts of things – nothing actually kinky goes on there but there are plenty of experienced people there to chat to about it. Also, there’s no dress code so if you’re wary of getting all latexed up, you needn’t worry. Some people do, for sure, but whatever you feel comfortable in is encouraged – be that going outrageous or in your jeans.

The Crunch host their own pre-meet for anyone who is new or coming along on their own, though of course I went with the Meetup and did my own version of this so can’t report on what that was like.


If you’re interested in this sort of lifestyle, then definitely head along. It’s every month, on the third Friday of the month so the next one is this week – the 21st August.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Cuisson POPdown and Cherry Cola, 27th June

I went to Cuisson’s Pop-Down dinner at the end of June. Held in a basement coffee shop, it certainly had the transient pop-up feel to it, giving it a slightly guerilla atmosphere.

And the cooking was quite impressive, even if unfortunately most of the dishes weren’t to my own personal taste.

There were six ‘courses’ (if bread be counted as a course??). For each I would say the ingredients and combinations were very well thought out leading to well balanced dishes. They were the perfect idea for a summer’s day – all very light and fresh.

We started with bread and their own made cultured butter. I was so pleased my dining companion was late as it allowed me to eat all her portion as well. It was exquisite. Then came the first real course – described as yoghurt with cucumber and anise, this was served almost as a gazpacho – a very thin soup. I don’t like yoghurt but luckily the other flavours counterbalanced this and I found it did taste quite nice – like a ‘souped up’ (excuse the pun) tzatziki. I couldn’t quite get over the fact I was spooning very thin yoghurt into my mouth however, which wasn’t the most pleasant sensation.

After this was something I could easily tuck into – ratte potatoes with hay, grelot tops and umami, closely followed by duck liver, thankfully served in pate form. This was spread onto a homemade cracker and was a very rich, savoury taste and my favourite (apart from the bread) course of the evening. The chunks of pineapple were a good foil to the deep ducky taste.
Next up – octopus pil pil with mustard and wild rice. Again something I would never order for myself. I think if you liked octopus then this was probably a good example of it. And it was at least sliced and presented in such a way that it was very easy to forget what it looks like in the natural world. It was now we began to realise all the courses so far had been cold, which we thought a little odd. I don’t think this was meant to be a feature of the night, but perhaps had something to do with the facilities available to them. It meant that I felt vaguely dissatisfied with the meal after, wishing I’d had at least one piping hot, filling dish.

Instead what I had as the final flourish was a lukewarm piece of salmon with horseradish cream/mousse. The horseradish was light and fluffy, and, most importantly to me – subtle. The fish was firm yet translucent. An accomplished dish but not one that rocked my particular tastebuds.

The dessert was similarly light and summery with a lychee and mango bavarois. It was so light and airy I felt I practically inhaled it rather than ate it. Very pleasant and a refreshing finish to the evening’s meal.

The aim of the pop-down was to create a relaxed and somewhat interactive dining occasion and it sort of worked. The chefs introduced the meal and you were free to take a wander and have a look at what they were doing, as well as them circulating and checking on you. Service was attentive and warm. As a supper club experience it was quite fun, and we chatted to the fellow diners on our table. Cuisson also do a dessert-only version which I think would be worth checking out, and they regularly change the menu so if the one I have described doesn’t float your boat I reckon it would be worth taking a punt on another evening.

Cherry Cola

After our grown up meal, I went back to Cocktail Trading Co and proceeded to get really quite pissed for the evening. After this we went up to Cherry Cola in Camden to bid farewell to the Purple Turtle. This indie institution was closing its doors forever and Cherry Cola, the indie night were seeing it off. We got there and caught the tail end of the final live band and then they plunged into some very decent indie and indie-tinged pop. Everyone was bopping and dancing and jumping about and I am very pleased to say Cherry Cola hasn't ended with the Purple Turtle - you can find it resurrected in East London at The Macbeth these days. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

All Shook Up, 20th June

All Shook Up is a fairly new addition to the retro/vintage nightlife scene, spinnind discs of rock n roll from the 50s to the 60s. It’s held monthly at Bloomsbury Bowl and I must admit, for this very reason I was unsure it would be much of a success. I had been out once to Bloomsbury Bowl at night and it was so dead I went home much earlier than I would normally.

Happily, this night was much more lively, and even though I did, in fact, leave early, this was nothing to do with boredom and instead because I was meeting friends at yet another party.

The venue itself was pretty hopping with plenty of people there to bowl and eat, but it was the dancefloor I was concerned with and this was plenty well populated. My group wasted no time in getting on and twisting and jiving and luckily the music they were playing encouraged us to do so straight away. Those that stayed behind after I went reported that they continued to have a great night.

What was also quite sweet is that the last time I was here there were a few of the older generation who had obviously been there the first time and knew all the moves. The same crew were there this time, showing us youngsters how it is done!


It’s good to get another night on the scene showcasing these rock ‘n’ roll tunes so if that’s your bag, definitely check this night out. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Morning Gloryville and Electric Diner, 20th June

Morning Gloryville is not on my List and would never have been put on my List because I would never realistically get up at 6 am just to go raving. Before work. I barely like getting up that early to go on holiday, let alone something I do most weekends.

But, they decided to launch a weekend version, which – provided I didn’t go out to all hours the night before – I thought wouldn’t entail getting up too unreasonably early for me. Of course, me being me, I didn’t end up going to sleep until around 3 am anyway on Friday night, but I was up at 9 the next day and at the venue just after 10. (Why oh why when it is normally held at Oval Space, within walking distance of my flat, did it have to be all the way over in West London?!)
Anyway, I went and I had an amazing time. I danced from the moment I got there to the moment they finished. At first I was worried. I had been concerned it would be a bit too hippiefied for me and the song playing when I arrived was something ‘uplifting’ which is not my thing. I like bass and I like it dutty. But soon they were playing all sorts, especially a lot of drum n bass and I didn’t want to stop dancing. Right at the end it all got a bit too spiritual for me, with everyone participating in a ‘grounding’ but overall I really loved it.

And what was especially good about it was that after three hours of solid dancing, I felt I could treat myself to a brunch at the Electric Diner, a short walk away. I went for a slightly healthier option as I fancied getting a milkshake too, so I had avocado on toast with a poached egg. The place was pretty buzzing but they managed to squeeze me in at the bar, which is perfect for solo dining.


I have to say I didn’t love it. It just wasn’t hot enough! A less than lukewarm poached egg is not optimum and the toast could have been… toastier. The avocado was nice enough but the chilli did not have a big enough hit. My Oreo milkshake was pretty good. It was certainly thick and creamy and had actual ice cream in it. The only thing I would say about that is I had to ask for a spoon because all the oreo collected at the bottom and it’s a bit odd they didn’t provide one with it straight away. All in all, it didn’t leave me with a desire to rush back and try everything else on the menu. 

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Monday, August 3, 2015

White Lyan and LCC Shoreditch, 19th June

I went to book the London Cocktail Club for 9 pm on a Friday and was told it was all booked up, which I was hardly surprised to see. But we thought we’d pop by anyway just in case there was a cancellation. We were in luck – there were two stools at the bar just waiting for us to perch upon them.

The place was a lot livelier than I had thought it would be. I’ve been to two LCCs now but both times on a weekday when the vibe was very low key. Clearly, if you want cocktails and a party on the weekend, this is the place to come. And it also explains why you can just rock up and chance your arm – people may book tables but there are areas to dance and plenty of standing room as well so you can likely squeeze in.

We were more interested in the drinking than the dancing on this occasion so we just stayed for two drinks before moseying on to another place to cross off the list.  Which is kind of a shame as the party seemed like it was only getting started when we were there yet it was already buzzing. One to return to I think. 

We absolutely loved the idea of the sharing cocktails – there was one that came in a boat and another that was served in your very own dispenser sitting on a monkey’s head. These were a little out of our price range though so we just looked on in envy and awe at those who ordered them. Instead we tried some of the interesting drinks on the menu such as the butter beer - Camden IPA, vanilla Stolichnya vodka, caramel, apple and honey Jack Daniels. You’ll know I’m not much of a beer drinker but I could easily gulp this down.
We also made sure to try the fortune cookie cocktail which was served in a bowl with chopsticks and a fortune cookie. This looked cooler than it tasted and I much preferred my old classic of espresso martini. Especially with bourbon biscuit pasted to the side!

With that caffeine adding a spring to my step, we hopped off our stools and made our way to Hoxton to catch White Lyan before it shut.

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White Lyan

White Lyan was the polar opposite of the atmosphere we had just exited. It was quiet to the extreme and we were served by the antithesis to the typical Shoreditch barman. No beard, no tats, just someone who was very obviously into the mixology behind the creations they served and very happy to spend a lot of time going through all the ingredients and processes while we quizzed him about every drink.

White Lyan is cold and clinical  and feels a bit like an 80s boardroom. Not really my style. Especially on a Friday night. I preferred the jumpin’ ambience of the LCC. However, the drinks were incredibly interesting and perfectly executed. The MO for White Lyan is pre-batched cocktails, the idea being they spend enough time getting the measures and combinations exactly right behind the scenes and then they bottle it and preserve it, so you don’t waste time waiting to get served. Considering how quiet it is, that part of it is probably something they don’t have to worry about, but the attention they spend in perfecting the drink is evident.

Each cocktail has something interesting about it and they’re all their own creation which made choosing the ones to have even more difficult than I normally find it. Eventually we narrowed down which sections we wanted to try and made our decisions. First up was something from the Fizz section. I had the seaside, an intriguing blend of tequila, yuzu, sea grass and avocado leaf soda. The yuzu and lime gave it a pleasant and light, slightly sweet and citrussy taste, while the avocado and seagrass made it very refreshing. Carolyn ordered the High Street which had elderflower champagne, blueberry vinegar and vitamin C. It was a bit like an alcoholic berocca and the discernible vinegar taste was actually nice!


We decided to go cheap for our last ones – something from the £6 hi-ball section. Carolyn ordered the Cherry Cola and I had the Meadow Spritz. Her Cherry Cola was basically, a rum and coke but with a cherry twist and tobacco to give it some depth. My Meadow was also quite an easy drink – the white grape soda making it fruity and the bitters ensuring the meadow flower liqueur wasn’t too flowery and pungent. I was impressed by the range and creativity of the drinks here. Just a shame about the setting.


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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Cocktail Trading Co, 13th June

From the cocktails I tried I would say some of the drinks here are more style over substance. But when the style is this fun, who really cares?

I was already very familiar with this space when it was but the '&Co' part of Central and Co - it was my and my best friend's go-to cocktail joint that we always seemed to get a seat at. The Cocktail Trading Co has got a lot of publicity lately but it also doesn't really make a song and dance about it when it comes to any signage which might explain why I managed to get a seat as soon as I turned up after work.

I already knew I liked the space and it's just as cosy as before, but this time you get monkey nuts to snack on. The staff are just as friendly and attentive, even though it's busier than it ever was when I went previously.

Reading through the cocktail menu is where the fun begins. Not only do they have great names like Tu-Whit-Tu-Whoo-Woo but the descriptions are actually instructions - telling you how to make them and including helpful advice such as 'shake like a dog in heat' or 'shake it up like a revolution'.


They have the more 'normal' cocktails towards the front - margaritas and even mojitos. On my first visit my friend had a 'Delicious Sour' made with calvados and peach wine which was indeed delicious and also very pretty.
I had the aforementioned Tu-Whit-Tu-Whoo-Woo which was a Frankenstein version of a woo woo. Vodka, sage, peach and cranberry syrup and topped up with prosecco. And packed full of ice, so that the flavours were a little muted. I loved the owl it came in and the candy floss it was adorned with, even if the other things festooned on the top got stuck in it.
On my second visit I finally chose a Scout's Honour which was served in a tin cup and came with a ration tin wedged on top and some toasted marshmallows to complement the smoked marshmallow syrup. (Marshmallows are really only any good when set alight to some degree.) Again, I loved the presentation and the tin actually opened to reveal some sweets and a party popper! (Duly popped). But the drink itself didn't do much for me - it took quite a while before I could discern the mallow sweet flavouring over the tequila.
My companion had the Urn-Aged Corpse Reviver No.2 which, for one of their fanciful cocktails, was the least wackily presented. The cocktail rested atop a plot of grass/hay and with a little hand beside it (I think it was meant to be poking out of the ground). But it did taste nice, even if it was only half full. I didn't even mind the absinthe afternotes.
And then I found myself there on a third occasion where we blitzed through even more of the ker-azy cocktails. Again, they were immense fun to order and drink from (squirting cockails into your mouth from a condiment container is always good for a laugh) but they weren't as memorable from a taste point of view.
So, I still really like the bar, and would happily share the experience with someone who hadn't been before, though I might stick to the more 'serious' ones which are a bit fuller on flavour. 

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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.