Category Archives: Drinking

A hat-trick of vodka martinis at London’s best bars

‘Don’t worry, you won’t get a hangover,’ insisted Pleurat Shabani, the maker of Konik’s Tail vodka and the host of our martini marathon. ‘I’ve never had a hangover drinking martinis.’

I wasn’t convinced – I once gave myself a three-day hangover while trying to perfect the art of making dirty martinis – and while the next day dawned much brighter than it usually did after an epic tasting, a martini headache did kick in at lunchtime. However, it was more than worth it – Pleurat is very entertaining company and the martinis made from Konik’s Tail were sublime, as were the surroundings.

Our schedule was simple: a martini at three of London’s top cocktail bars. We were to start at the Connaught Bar in the Connaught Hotel in Mayfair, go on to the legendary bar at Dukes Hotel, St James’s and then cross Piccadilly once more to end the evening at Claridge’s.

konik's tail vodka
The martinis are all too drinkable…

While we supped our drinks (and I ate a lot of olives), we learned about Pleurat’s almost puritanical approach to his vodka (which is named after the elusive Polish Konik wild horses, which, if spotted, are supposed to herald a good harvest.)

It shouldn’t be mixed – even freezing it, as both Dukes and Claridge’s do, makes him wince – and the idea of a putting Konik’s Tail in a cocktail was practically unthinkable (he was so unimpressed by my love for dirty martinis, which after all just have a touch of olive brine, that I thought it best not to discuss his views on appletinis or vodka and coke…) Continue reading A hat-trick of vodka martinis at London’s best bars

Pisco power! Getting into the Peruvian spirit at Senor Ceviche

As a late arrival to the cult of the Pisco sour cocktail I certainly plan to make up for lost time.

I started and finished my evening at Senor Ceviche, the Peruvian pop-up bar which is now a restaurant in Soho, with the drink which has become one of my favourites: little glasses of the Peruvian pisco spirit, mixed with lime juice, sugar syrup and bitters, refreshing and sour and sweet and smooth all at the same time, and extremely moreish.

senor ceviche
A pair of pisco sours – a great start to a great meal

Even without those to top and tail the evening, our trip to Senor Ceviche would still have been a great night. The food was fresh and zesty, the service prompt and friendly, and the atmosphere was fun without being forced.

Senor Ceviche is a great find and a worthy addition to the hidden pocket of food-and-cocktail heaven which is Kingly Court. Located between Regents Street and Carnaby Street, this area is finally discovering the zing and zip which it had in the 60s and lost in the 80s.

Senor Ceviche
The interior is cheerful, bright and stands out from the usual restaurant design

Senor Ceviche owner Harry Edmeades, who learned his craft working in restaurants in Peru, has re-created the colourful chaos of a Lima bar for London foodies with its busy yellow decor. Continue reading Pisco power! Getting into the Peruvian spirit at Senor Ceviche

Heddon Street Kitchen: lacks Gordon Ramsay’s fire

It is hard to avoid Gordon Ramsay. He’s either being snapped triathlon-training on a Malibu beach getting in and out of his wetsuit, or on our TV screens shouting at hapless (and hopeless) restaurateurs.

Only last week tabloid readers were treated to the revelation from his daughter that he apparently likes to run round his house in the nude. So it was with some trepidation that I arrived at his recently-opened Heddon Street Kitchen. Would the great man himself be streaking through the kitchens? And what would health and safety (not to mention hygiene) inspectors have to say about that?

gordon ramsay's heddon street kitchen
Gordon Ramsay’s latest venture Heddon Street Kitchen is off Regent Street in London’s Mayfair

Thankfully there were no naked chefs in sight in Heddon Street itself – that little pedestrianised offshoot of Regent Street which has become a restaurant enclave – and the Heddon Street Kitchen looked very inviting, with outside tables, lots of pot plants and big windows through which the lights shone out into the cold February night.

Inside it was also very pleasant: a large space saved from turning cavernous with the use of some thoughtful room design, the brown floorboards and furniture made less gloomy by well-placed lighting, and even the heavy presence of 80s-style exposed pipes in the ceiling couldn’t detract from a calm and relaxing atmosphere.

gordon ramsay's heddon street kitchen
OK, so it’s got a lot of those exposed industrial ceiling pipes but is pretty cosy in spite of that

As the occasion was a bloggers’ dinner rather than a more typical meal for two, no sooner had we sat down when cocktails then food started arriving: it was a whistle-stop tour through the menu. Continue reading Heddon Street Kitchen: lacks Gordon Ramsay’s fire

Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar: lunch with a view

Long-time London dwellers still remember County Hall, across the river Thames from the Houses of Parliament, as the Greater London Council building on which Ken Livingstone used to hang banners to annoy Margaret Thatcher.

However the impressive building has long since fallen into private hands. As well as some fairly diverse attractions including the London Aquarium and and London Dungeon, part of the building houses the five-star London Marriot County Hall in which the Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar, one of many good restaurants in Waterloo, can be found.

The County Hall building restaurants in waterloo
The County Hall building used to be the offices of the Greater London Council but now houses the London Aquarium and the London Dungeon as well as the Marriot hotel

I’ve long been a fan of the bar for not only having great views of the Thames but for having a fabulously well-stocked bar and staff who are both extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic.

I spent a lengthy evening before Christmas there working my way through a variety of cocktails both on and off-menu, and was served the best negroni I’ve ever had, made entirely from English spirits from the Hampstead-based Sacred Spirits company.

restaurants in waterloo
The bar at Gillray’s serves an impressive range of cocktails

However until now I’d never ventured into the actual restaurant and on arrival was evident that not many other people were doing either – just one other table was occupied in the sizeable dining room which made for a fairly subdued atmosphere. The location, right by Waterloo station, the London Eye, Westminster and so forth, should have made it perfectly sited for both tourists and business types but that wasn’t the case this Wednesday lunchtime. Continue reading Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar: lunch with a view

Aperitivo in the heart of (rather noisy) Kensington

‘Location is everything’ so the saying goes – but when it comes to the afternoon drinks and Italian nibbles at the Baglioni hotel in Kensington, it seems location can be a double-edged sword.

I was invited to come along and spend the evening in the sunshine (yes, it was one of those gorgeously warm summer evenings which sadly seem to have ended…) on its outdoor ‘Bellavista terrace’ which, said the hotel, ‘is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy a delicious lunch, dinner or aperitivo after work.’

This all sounded a rather lovely way in which to slide from the working day into a pleasant evening. As a former inhabitant of Rome and Florence I used to love the tradition of having a glass or two of something in the early evening, along with some delicious olives, bread, freshly-sliced salami and wodges of strong cheese.

aperitivo bar london
A lovely evening setting just across from Kensington Gardens….but where has the traffic gone?

The Baglioni’s aperitivo menu, available from 5.30-7.30pm every day, costs £15 and included, according to the hotel, ‘a sparkling glass of Bellavista sparkling wine or a delicious Italian cocktail accompanied by a selection of antipasti, salumi or cheeses.’

So one beautiful summer’s evening I gathered some friends and we walked from the Mail’s offices in Kensington High Street for all of three minutes before – how handy is that? – we arrived at the Baglioni. Continue reading Aperitivo in the heart of (rather noisy) Kensington