Friday, 20 September 2013

Shoreditch Grind, Happiness Forgets and Simmons Bar

With Freshers' Weeks happening up and down the country, some of that student-y vibe must have secretly overflowed and seeped into Marcus and I as we inexplicably decided to organise ourselves a little bar crawl. Well, more of a cocktail crawl in fact (so maybe not so student-y after all!).

Marcus put scrupulous planning into our crawl, carefully selecting interesting sounding bars all within walking distance of each other.  The only thing not planned for unfortunately was the weather. We donned our suitably smart attire and stepped straight out into the pouring rain.

The first stop along our route was Shoreditch Grind. Shoreditch Grind is a multi-functioning place- a dedicated coffee house by day and an equally committed cocktail bar by night, just opposite Old Street Station. Here, Marcus had an expresso martini and I opted for a vanilla and ginger daiquiri which I very much enjoyed. We sat at a bar running around the glass wall of the venue, looking out onto the lit up Silicon Roundabout and laughing as the smokers attempted to huddle themselves out of the rain.
However, before long we were slurping up the last drops of our drinks and getting ready to dash back out into the rain ourselves.

Next stop, Happiness Forgets. This was a busy little bar hidden away in a basement in Hoxton Square. The atmosphere inside is dark and sultry, the bar staff friendly and knowledgeable (and bedecked with bow ties and braces) and the drinks are delicious.

 We sat down and were immediately given glasses of cucumber flavoured water which was a nice touch. We were then faced with a rather long menu supporting unfamiliar names and after a fair bit of pondering over what various drinks would taste like, we finally chose. I went for a 'Baptiste' which involved cider, cognac and maple syrup where as Marcus went for a 'Penfold Sour' which was described as 'rich and herbal' and was our favourite of the two drinks (not that mine wasn't enjoyable!). Don't worry however if you're phased by unfamiliar names- we heard plenty of people order cocktails off menu without complaint! Anyway, we happily sipped away, immersed in the chatter surrounding us, watching as the bar tenders vigorously shook the life out of cocktail shakers and whipped up delicious creations. Happiness Forgets was an incredibly enjoyable experience and despite the bar's name, not one I'll be forgetting easily.

Our last scheduled stop on our little cocktail crawl was Simmons, a stone's throw from King's Cross. Simmons had a fairly different atmosphere to the other two places we visited just because it seemed to take itself that little less seriously. Done up like a bookshop (but with a large, mirrored skull 'disco ball' hanging from the ceiling) most of the cocktails came in tea cups and tea pots, served by a charmingly tweed clad bartender.

The menu in itself was entertaining to read and had me giggling happily into my tea cup. Here, I had a creation entitled 'Tastes Like Elliot' which according to the description on the menu was to be 'possibly the best drink I'll ever have'. I have to say, I enjoyed it immensely- it tasted somewhat like a naughty strawberry milkshake and (again, true to the menu's description) had me licking up every last drop.  Maybe this wasn't the most 'adult' of drinks, but it was definitely my favourite of the night. Marcus had another tantalising elixir in the form of a 'Toblerone' which I happily kept stealing sips of. Lively and packed with people, Simmons was obviously a local favourite.

The three bars we visited were all great in their own way. Shoreditch Grind was a good place to 'pop in' for a drink, where as Happiness Forgets' had mixology geniuses as bartenders. However, I think my overall favourite may just have been Simmons- creamy cocktails in teacups really seemed to hit the spot!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013


So it's possible you may have heard about MEATliquor before. It's one of those 'trendy' places which there was a lot of hype about not so long ago and I have to say, I have been dying to visit. Finally, last Monday I got the chance and Marcus and I headed off for a late date night of burgers and cocktails.

MEATliquor has a strict 'no reservations' policy so I was happily surprised to find that we didn't have to queue outside (possibly something to do with it being a Monday). As we breezed in, I was hit by a wave of pure atmosphere. The music was loud, the lights low and the decor punky. The majority of the restaurant is in a sunken, domed gallery, which looks pretty spectacular as it (and all the walls) are all covered in an array of black, red and white illustrations.

We made our way through the hubbub to the bar and started perusing the extensive cocktail menu while chatting with the incredibly friendly bar staff. I eventually chose a 'Tipping the Velvet' (a delicious muddle of cognac, merlot, berries and lime) while Marcus went for a 'Kurwa Sour' (a scrumptious mix of vodka, passionfruit and absinthe). Then, drinks in hand, we made our way to our table.

By this point, I was a very happy bunny. The electric atmosphere of the place had me buzzing and I literally couldn't wait to start picking my food. Luckily, a waitress quickly turned up with menus and we gave our orders. I went for the 'Mushroom Swiss' (two beef patties, mushrooms, cheese and all the little extras) where as Marcus went for the 'Green Chilli Cheese Burger' (essentially a cheese burger with chilli butter). We also ordered some onion rings to share.

A couple of sips of our cocktails later, our food arrived in front of us. Presented on a mental tray with no cutlery in sight, this was definitely finger food you had to get stuck into. The first thing that hit me was the size of the onion rings. They were huge! And crispy. And delicious.

Then the burgers. Mine was cooked to perfection- rare in the middle and wonderfully juicy. Each bite was mouthwatering and I found myself wolfing it down at break neck speed. Marcus' chilli burger was also yummy but unbelievably hot- the chilli butter was more like slices of green chilli with a light butter coat! Neither of us are the best with extra spicy food, so tears were shed as we sampled the burger. Before long, I was running to the bar for a large supply of water. Despite this however, the burger was still divine.

After our food had vanished, we found ourselves browsing the cocktail menu once more. I chose 'Jamie's Marvellous Medicine' (absinthe, coconut cream and raspberries) while Marcus went for a 'Louisiana Jam' (a mix of Southern Comfort and apricot jam). I found my second cocktail to be a little too heavy on the absinthe, but despite this we both enjoyed our drinks! We settled down happily with our drinks, letting our food go down while enjoying our bustling surroundings.

MEATliquor is definitely an experience. If your idea of a good restaurant experience is a peaceful dinner in a place where you can clearly see exactly what is in front of you and you're given the instruments in order to eat it with, then maybe MEATliquor isn't for you. But if you're willing to throw this ideal to the wind and get a little messy, then give MEATliquor a go. The food is great, the atmosphere greater and the entertaining drinks menu is the icing on the metaphorical cake (or burger as it may be...). I thoroughly enjoyed my experience here and can't wait to return.

Monday, 16 September 2013

The Soho Hotel: Refuel Bar and Restaurant

My mother and my godmother both have rather a taste for fine dining and so this weekend I joined them at The Soho Hotel for lunch at Refuel. This was to be my second visit to the restaurant and so I was looking forwards to a delicious lunch.

The restaurant itself is light, bright and decorated in a really fun manner. The bar is colourful and there are shelves full of technicoloured  fuel cans which give the restaurant a bit of a quirky feel, suitable for its Soho surroundings. The chairs I also feel are worth a mention- some are adorably upholstered in a green tartan with little bears sewn on the back which I absolutely love!

After we were shown to our seats, we started to peruse the champaign set menu. Now, I know that set menus can sometimes be a tad limiting, but we each happily found things we wanted to eat. Both starters and mains had the option for either a meat, fish and veggie plate which I felt meant there was something for everybody. I opted for the soup of the day (leek and potato- yum!) and a chicken dish, both of which I found very palatable despite maybe not being the prettiest of dishes.

At the end of our meal (we had two course- it was lunch after all!) we were offered a selection of mini ice creams and sorbets in cones which was a lovely and unexpected way to round off our meal. To further our surprise, the bartender very sweetly sent over a round of expresso martinis. Upon investigation, my mother found out I had once met the bar tended some time ago and he'd very kindly recognised me and decided to treat us!

All in all I really enjoyed my lunch at Refuel and it definitely lived up to my previous experience. The staff were friendly and attentive, the food delicious and the atmosphere wonderfully relaxed. I look forwards to future visits!

Miles Aldridge: I Only Want You To Love Me

Since the start of the summer, I've been waiting and waiting to have time to pop down to Somerset House to go and see Miles Aldridge's exhibition, I Only Want You To Love Me. Finally I got a chance to go during the rainy day which was last Friday.

Miles Aldridge is a photographer popular with Italian Vogue, amongst other big publications such as the New York Times and Harper's Bazaar. His subjects tend to be blank faced beauties, which to me tend to look as if they're resentful or resigned to their lot in life (especially when, as in some portraits, they're surrounded by scenes of domestic drudgery) and scream a 'Betty Draper' style vibe. The blonde bombshell (in a 'Kill Bill' style outfit, sat on the floor amongst the remains of a smashed tea tray dinner ) in one of my favourite portraits even seems slightly murderous!

 However, according to the exhibition, the artist prefers to see his subjects as in 'a state of contemplation' which invites us to consider the subjects' 'inner lives'. And the portraits really do get you thinking whether you think they're in a 'state of contemplation' or not. The vivacity of the images, with their highly saturated colours and bold scenes gives each image an almost otherworldly feel, absorbing you closer into the disturbing world of his perfect subjects.  However you choose to interpret them, the portraits are hypnotically fascinating and leave you wondering what's going to happen next.

The exhibition also showcased the amount of work that went into creating each image which I felt was rather unusual. Normally, you're presented with an end result. A carefully crafted perfection with no idea how the piece was created. Not so much here. On display were his hand drawn illustrations which showed us where some of the images had come from as well as polaroids from the shoots. The polaroids were apparently used so that Aldridge check how each image was going to appear before they were developed. Since his medium was film, he would not normally see the end result until the film was developed after the shoot was finished. These polaroids were fascinating as you could see the different scenes portrayed before the final piece was settled on.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition and would highly recommend it to everyone!
(Apologies for a lack of photos- cameras weren't allowed in the exhibition so the only snaps I could get were from outside).

While at Somerset House on Friday I also had a nice little surprise. I'd totally forgotten that it was Fashion Week! That meant that when I rocked up, there were plenty of crazily dressed people around and a couple of fantastic freebees to be snapped up.

 After a little bit of people watching, I opened the little cardboard box I'd been handed by the kind people at Birchbox. Inside were some lovely goodies to keep everyone going through Fashion Week, including a mini OPI nail polish and some delicious popcorn!

 For those interested, Birchbox is a company which will send high end beauty samples straight to your door which to me sounds like a great idea and worth checking out. Anyway as I'm sure you'll all agree, freebees are always a great way to end a day and I went home feeling culturally fulfilled and actually full after scoffing down all my popcorn..!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Alcúdia, Majorca

Last week, my best friend Meggie, my sister and I went on holiday together. We visited Majorca some years ago, where we stayed in Pollença, a pretty seaside town in the north of Majorca. This year we were back, staying in the historical town of Alcúdia.

Alcúdia is beautiful. The old town is surrounded by a castle-like stone wall which dates back to the 14th century. It shields and restrains the narrow sun-drenched streets and the stone houses with their pained shutters.

Alcúdia holds a market every Tuesday and Sunday so we popped down to see what we could find.
There were some interesting stalls holding everything from leather goods to Majorcan olive oil (often infused with a variety of different flavours such as lemon and mango!), dried fruits and delicious looking nuts. Lu and Meggie were a little grumpy from lack of sleep but cheered up remarkably when they spotted a heaving stall covered in sweets!

We also found a wonderful little shop tucked away down one of the narrow streets which was filled with large glass vats of vinegar and liqueur, flavoured with local Majorcan herbs and spices. The shop owner was really friendly and kept giving us tasty little morsels to try. Lulu ended up buying a deliciously sweet liqueur which was flavoured with herbs claimed to aid your digestion. Whether or not this liqueur would do the same we've yet to see, but it was nonetheless a tasty buy!

The weather in Alcúdia was beautiful and we spent much of our time either by the pool or lying on a beach by the sea. The beaches we visited were all rather dramatic, surrounded by ancient volcanic rock forms. The water was a stunning shade of blue and rather on the warm side which inspired a few bouts of paddling and a determined swim around a tiny island. When we were sick of the salt, we retired to the refreshing waters of our villa pool, where we basked on the lilo or played pool games together.

Alcúdia is a lovely little town to visit if you're looking for a short break somewhere where the sun is hot. The old town and port is pretty to look around and there are plenty of restaurants to keep you well fed. Personally we found the best nightlife is a short taxi ride away in Pollença, but that does mean that Alcúdia is a wonderfully quiet and family friendly town. We had a lovely little break and came back suitably tanned, much to our delight!