Bars

London-Bars

Given the option I tend to opt for a cocktail over pudding after a meal. But imagine if one didn’t have to make that choice? What if cocktails and sweet treats were one and the same, combined?

When I received my invitation to taste the Cocktail & Cake Liquid Afternoon Tea menu at The Royal Horseguards Hotel, I discovered that this was possible. Hallelujah!

The sight of cocktail glasses lined up at the hotel’s Equus Bar was heavenly. This was going to be an afternoon tea designed for me, or so it felt like it.

And as much as I adore traditional tea and scones, I realised instantly that this experience was going to be somewhat different from anything I had ever tried.

The tastings started off with canapés and were followed by food demonstrations …

The ice lolly machine was very interesting – and apparently, this iced platform is also great for carpaccio!

I tried the Long Island Ice Tea jelly shots … Yum!

And one of the Strawberry Daiquiri Macaroons … Delish.

There were also cocktail making sessions. This Lord Kitchener cocktail was to die for! – if you prefer martinis to have a kick, which I do.

After the demonstrations, we were taken around the hotel to learn about its formidable history as well as discover its hidden gems.

My favourite historical nugget is knowing that what is now the hotel reception used to be a bar where Winston Churchill spent much time as a young man when he was a Liberal.

But even as a Conservative, Churchill returned to this building which was and still is in part associated with the National Liberal Club. What would he make of today’s coalition? We can only wonder.

It’s also not a surprise that cocktails on the Equus Bar menu reflect not only Churchill’s association with the building but also its other past inhabitants: George Bernard Shaw, Lord Kitchener and William Gladstone. The hotel used to also be a block of flats.

The tour of the hotel was stunning. This really is a beautiful building and it didn’t feel as if we were in Central London but rather on some country estate far far away.

As for the tastings, what can I say? Each experience was full of flavour. Each of the canapés were a delightful surprise, including this fish and chips in a teacup dish – which is essentially creamy haddock soup with a potato chip carefully laid on top. Amazing.

The cocktails were stellar. The Churchill cocktail included a combination of bourbon, homemade tobacco syrup and aromatic bitters and I can’t recommend it enough.

But if you prefer something sweeter, the Sir Mansfield-Cumming is also a good option …

It contains a mixture of Scotch, Quince Liquer, fresh lemon and Whisky barrel aged bitters – with a maraschino cherry. Admittedly, I ordered this drink because I was thinking more about James Bond. Mansfield-Cumming had set up MI6. But I did enjoy it and again I was met with surprising bursts of flavours.

This Cocktail and Liquid Afternoon Tea menu is only available for a limited time: from 5th until 14th October 2012. And to book or for more information, you can click here.

If you do make it down, have a fabulous time. I’ll definitely be heading back because I hear Adrian (the principal bartender) makes a great Manhattan and I have yet to taste one that blows me away. I cannot wait!

There is so much going on this month and I’ve had quite a task narrowing down my top 5 recommends, but here goes:

1. Celebrate Chocolate Week with Hotel Chocolat at The Botanist! You can read my post on the amazing hot chocolate cocktails on the menu here.

2. Designer Sales UK (DSUK) returns to the Chelsea Town Hall from 25th until 27th October.

There will be markdowns from 60-90% off retail prices. Labels include See by Chloe, Belstaff, Moschino, Jimmy Choo, Valentino, Missoni, Lanvin, YSL and King’s Road fave Vivienne Westwood. Entry fee is £3/£2 (concs).

3. SACRED returns to Chelsea Theatre on 19th October and will be running until February 2013. Live art events and contemporary performances kick off with So Below, from Chelsea Theatre Associate Artist Karen Christopher, (Formerly part of Chicago’s Goat Island) and Gerard Bell on October 19 and 20 at 7.30pm. For more information on SACRED’s programme, click here.

4. On 4th October, Ross X Bute will be having an in-store event for their customers which includes an informal wine tasting and styling tips from the creative team behind this fabulous King’s Road boutique. See your invitation below!

5. I have yet to pop down to the Hollywood Arms for the Sunday Cinema nights but the screening on 21st October sounds very appealing. Which film is good enough to take me away from the cinema and sway me towards a pub supper and free screening upstairs?

Drive!

I LOVE THIS FILM! (More details)

If you have anything you’d like to add to the list to let folks know, please feel free to leave details in the comment box below because I haven’t even touched upon Halloween. So much going on! x

Last night my birthday celebrations kicked off at Grey Goose’s Taste By Appointment, which took place at Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen in the City.

I’d known that Taste By Appointment had taken place at other venues including Nobu, Gilbert Scott and The Savoy – but I didn’t know what to expect exactly.

Arriving at the venue, being seated and seeing a tray of vials and glasses was also intriguing. What was Taste By Appointment about?

As Grey Goose ambassador Joe McCanta started to speak, it all started to make sense very quickly.

We were about to embark on a quest to learn about our personal tastebuds through the art of cocktail-making. To say I was very excited is an understatement. All I kept thinking was, this is SO me! And I couldn’t wait to understand more about how I tasted cocktails.

After a glass of Grey Goose Le Fizz and some canapés, we embarked on a couple of experiments.

We studied the five fundamental tastes and we learned how to create our own cocktail formulas at a most basic level, from the solutions in the vials.

Once we grasped the basics, we progressed to the bar. At the main bar, Joe McCanta made up cocktails specifically tailored to our personal preferences.

Using my favourite cocktails as reference: Dirty Martini and Margarita, he made me something that was savoury with a touch of grapefruit and that had an underlying tea flavour.

The cocktail was both familiar and surprising at the same time. The tasting experience involved layers of flavours which encompassed what I love about a good cocktail: a simple drink that is packed with the complexity of a single meal.

At the drinks trolleys, we tested our tastebuds further as we made up our own cocktails.

My cocktail involved Grey Goose, coffee, grenadine, white chocolate and kirsch. Ironically when making my own cocktail, I felt more comfortable going for something very sweet rather than savoury. Mine was yummy but I’m not sure I would order it at a bar though.

I also ended up making only one cocktail because in the name of research, I thought I’d try the Grey Goose La Poire and Le Citron straight-up first. 😉

After Bread Street Kitchen, I headed to Hawksmoor Guildhall for something to eat.

I hadn’t been to any of the Hawksmoors before and I absolutely loved the Guildhall venue. In fact, I just loved being in the City. Isn’t the architecture just stunning?

At Hawksmoor, I had a rump steak and stuck to the Champagne. And for dessert, I was surprised by this!

Our waiter Sam really looked after us. He was so amazing. When it comes to great service, I never take anything for granted. Sam really made our night at Hawksmoor Guildhall. Thank you Sam!

I had also discovered earlier that night, at Bread Street Kitchen, that Richard Turner who is Hawksmoor’s Executive Chef, is also one of Grey Goose’s Taste Makers.

In this video, he talks about Umami which is one of the key tastes we explored. Umami is the savoury taste and can be related to cocktails such as a Dirty Martini.

So another year passes and another cocktail-fuelled birthday is behind me. But this time, I feel somewhat wiser as a result of all that clinking.

What a great night!

Taste By Appointment’s October dates and venues.

A couple of weeks ago, I popped into Raffles members club on the King’s Road to celebrate their 45th anniversary by tasting their Cocktail 45.

Admittedly the Cocktail 45 won’t be available until October but this can only be a good thing. Why? Because the Cocktail 45 includes a delicate blend of gins, infused with herbs and aged for at least 45 days in oak barrels. So my tasting was a little premature but already so delicious!

The herbs selected for the Cocktail 45 were also highlighted by Sir Stamford Raffles in his book “A History of Java”, published in 1817, so the drink’s historical meaning extends beyond the club’s 1967 opening.

I had the Cocktail 45 straight up but it will also be available with bubbles. My cocktail was stirred with a sloe gin and served with a glazed cherry and grapefruit twist. If you are a martini fan and if you love cocktails with depth of flavour and substance, you will most certainly love this. I did!

Cocktail 45

Gabriel, who is managing the whole gig at Raffles, also spoilt me with cocktails from their new upcoming cocktail menu which included:

Clover Club (which we chased with a Crack Baby)

Zombie

Rose Martini

The new menu will also include Tom Collins and Pear and Cinnamon Fizz amongst others.

Unsurprisingly, Raffles was packed that night and it is quite amazing to think that this club has been opened since the Rolling Stones and The Beatles were also hanging out on the King’s Road. So here’s to another 45 years and plenty more cocktails and clinking. Happy Anniversary guys!

Since I visited one of New York’s original speakeasy bars located in the basement of 21 Club, I have been a huge fan of these clandestine venues. At the time, I had no idea about 21’s speakeasy history. I had decided to book a table there for me and my friends because of my love for classic movies such as Rear Window and Sweet Smell of Success: Do you remember Grace Kelly arriving at James Stewart’s apartment with dinner from 21?

Whilst at 21, it just so happened that I got talking to the woman who was working in the Ladies at the time and she suggested that I chat up one of the waiters and ask him to take me and my friends on a tour through the kitchen.

So needless to say, when I discovered that Evans & Peel Detective Agency had opened up in Earl’s Court, I was both excited and very curious. I’d already been to Barts and wondered how this new venue could be any different. Little did I know.

When you spot Evans & Peels’s door off the Earl’s Court Road, it seems very unassuming. You may even be forgiven for thinking that a Private Investigator may be lurking behind it.

As you descend down the stairs, you instantly sense a speakeasy vibe: wooden stairs that are leading you to … you’re not quite sure.

The reception area is set up as if a 1920s detective were out to lunch.

And still you have no idea where you’re actually supposed to go because there is no obvious doorway when you arrive. Of course, someone is on hand to show you through to the bar and when you step inside, you do feel like you’re taking a leap back in time.

I didn’t take any photos of the bar because first impressions do count and I’d rather not rob you of this one. It’s quite a treat.

The cocktails, which are my reason for wanting to return quite soon, were classic yet adventurous in their approach. If a cocktail needed orange juice, marmalade was added and if the potato vodka was in a martini then black pepper was added to bring out its flavour.

Between the bf and I, we tried quite a few cocktails on the list and our unanimous agreement is that the Sheer Fashion and the Auntie May’s Marmalade Bronx were our favourites. Both had substance, which you could enjoy with every sip thanks to the attention to detail with the ingredients. They were also gorgeous to drink.

Sheer Fashion

Auntie May’s Marmalade Bronx

The food on the menu are small plates, which I think are ideal accompaniments for cocktails. Between us, we tried the Smoked Salmon Slider …

The Pulled Pork Slider …

We also shared some potato wedges and sausages with relish.

As we were leaving, we learned that behind the bar were also a selection of infused vodkas. On the menu that night was a pink peppercorn infused vodka. Apparently, the guys behind the bar like to experiment with their drinks so each time you visit it might be worth asking about the specials for that night.

Clearly, I felt like running back inside to try a few more drinks but then I consoled myself to not have too much of a good thing in one night. Evans & Peel is only a walk away and I am beyond excited that a bar with true character and an exciting drinks list has landed nearby. I was also surprised to see that having only been open for over a week, the word had already got out and it already had a good buzz about it. I can’t wait to head back!

Evans & Peel Detective Agency’s website.

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