Category Archives: Pubs, inns and bars

The Capital hotel: London’s venue for a cocktail masterclass

Its claim to fame is that it is the closest hotel to Harrods, and it’s true that less than 30 seconds walk will take you right into the iconic department store. But thankfully The Capital hotel, just round the back of Harrods on a quiet Knightsbridge street, is more than just a place to stagger back to after a hard day’s shopping. Opened in 1971 by hotelier David Levin, it is still owned and managed by him and his family today, which gives it a far more friendly air than a corporate chain hotel.

The cosy lobby at the Capital

While the hotel does a special ‘Shop till you Drop’ package which includes a £50 Harrods voucher, afternoon tea and a drink to restore you (if not your credit card) after your retail therapy, I went to the Capital with cocktails, rather than shopping, on my mind. Bar manager Cesar da Silva has been at the Capital for 15 years and is still extremely enthusiastic about teaching other people to make cocktails in his popular Cocktail Masterclass, which is just as well as apparently he often does 10 of these hour-long courses a day. Continue reading The Capital hotel: London’s venue for a cocktail masterclass

Percy & Founders: smart, modern food with style in London

The part of London between Portland Place and Goodge Street has historically been a bit of a culinary no-man’s land, with little to tempt you to eat in the estate-agent-christened ‘Noho’ unless you actually worked in the area.

Percy & Founders
I was seriously considering taking this old-fashioned typewriter home with me…

However over recent years the local pubs and cafes have been smartening up, the Riding House Cafe and 48 Newman Street Tavern have opened and now there is a development so new that the postcode doesn’t even yield a map when typed into Google.

Percy & Founders, the new all-day bar and restaurant built on the site of the old Middlesex Hospital, has a nod to tradition in that you can actually peer through a glass wall from the restaurant into the hospital’s original chapel, perfectly preserved and soon to be open for people to have a look around.

However in spite of individual touches such as old typewriters (I loved the one next to our table and yearned to take it home with me) the overall decor is very clean, light wood and straight lines, very much along the lines of All Bar One in the 90s. Continue reading Percy & Founders: smart, modern food with style in London

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

El Pirata: the friendliest tapas in London’s Mayfair

Tucked away behind the grey anonymity of Park Lane’s high-rise hotel district which includes the Dorchester, the Intercontinental and the Athenaeum, El Pirata‘s tapas bar is a welcome sight.

In spite of being in one of London’s grandest postcodes and near to high-end establishments such as Nobu and its most recent addition the Playboy club, El Pirata feels more like a cosy neighbourhood restaurant.

el pirata tapas mayfair
El Pirata has been serving up tapas in Mayfair since 1994 and has been praised by the likes of Johnny Depp and Brian May

Celebrating its 21st birthday this year – a lifetime in the London food scene –  El Pirata has the rustic charm of a restaurant more than twice its age, with hundreds of bottles propped up behind its lengthy bar, pictures all over its walls and the subdued lighting and low ceiling giving it an olde worlde feel. Continue reading El Pirata: the friendliest tapas in London’s Mayfair

The Botanist: posh pancakes for Shrove Tuesday

The Botanist, Sloane Square was packed at 7pm last Thursday as the pre-theatre crowd were getting a few swift ones in before heading across the road to the King’s Head Theatre.

Thankfully the restaurant itself was rather quieter as we were here on a very serious quest: to sample London’s Most Decadent Pancake.

botanist sloane square review
The Botanist, Sloane Square, is promising ‘London’s Most Decadent Pancake’ for Shrove Tuesday

The publicity blurb – it’s possibly the first pancake I’ve heard of that has its own PR agent – heralded it thus: ‘The super-indulgent £32 pancake contains beautiful chunks of fresh lobster, morel and chanterelle mushrooms and a creamy, smoked garlic bisque – something to be savoured rather than scoffed!’ Continue reading The Botanist: posh pancakes for Shrove Tuesday

Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings: a hidden culinary gem

It is located in the no-man’s land of offices and parkland between Exmouth Market and Clerkenwell Green, but Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings is well worth the detour.

Opened just a few months ago by the team which also owns the subterranean Goodge Street drinking den Rev JW Simpson and Fitzrovia bar Bourne & Hollingsworth, the all-day restaurant and bar occupies a vast corner of a building which has housed various short-lived venues over the years including a sports bar, an Argentinian restaurant and an Indian curry house.

Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings restaurants in exmouth market
Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings is stylish, foodie and welcoming – but somewhat off the beaten track

However the charm, style and excellent food offered by Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings should hopefully be enough to lure people off the beaten track.

The interior is designed around shabby-chic, members club meets country house-type lines with a grand piano, stripped white floorboards, a roaring fire, squashy sofas and a central bar.

Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings restaurants in exmouth market
It’s cosy, bright and the perfect place to spend a cold January evening


We propped ourselves up at the bar and got stuck into the inventive cocktail list, going for a West Indies Gimlet (£9.50) with Navy strength gin (which gives it a kick at 57 per cent ABV), Caribbean syrup falernum, lime and bitters and the signature cocktail Hollingsworth Fizz with thyme-infused peach liqueur, gin and soda topped with lemon (£8.50).

Continue reading Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings: a hidden culinary gem