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Thursday, 27 May 2010

The Tommyfield, Kennington

Why ‘The Tommyfield?’ asks chum. Spiritually, blonde, she’s perplexed by this new grub-pub’s handle. ‘Because, historically, Kennington was where all London’s tomatoes were grown,’ I offer. She buys it. In truth, the name refers to an Oldham market, the site of the world’s first ever chippy circa 1860, I’m told. It’s another astonishing claim to fame for the Lancashire town, hitherto, best remembered as ‘home of the tubular bandage’, as a sign on a bridge there proudly proclaims. At the T.Field, the latest offering from the Renaissance group who previously cornered the Clapham ‘gastro’ market with The Abbeville, Avalon, Bollingbroke and Stonhouse pubs, fish and chips are present and correct. Sunday roasts - as good as it ever gets for £12.50 - are apportioned with Lancashire roly-poly politico ‘Big’ Cyril Smith in mind so the place is, understandably, jammed. Either the Kinsey Report’s 10% estimate is way off the mark, or the proximity of Vauxhall’s flesh-pots explains the over-representation of the Kylie Appreciation Society, today in the house. They sup draught Doom Bar and keenly-priced vino. Our murderously punchy Mexican red will necessitate a Tijuana taxi ride home but as this lot are local, for them, a short stagger back to an IKEA sofa in time for Sunday’s serving of Come Dine With Me.  
185 Kennington Lane SE11 7735 1061

Friday, 21 May 2010

Red Monkey, Battersea (CLOSED)

At the bar, we're pestered four times in rapid succession by a dumpy dame on a mission. Gurning like Little Miss Bossy on speed, she insists we join her in one of three karaoke pods for hire. Judging by her  country bumpkin pinafore and cider drinker’s complexion, she’d probably pick The Wurzels’  Combine Harvester. I’d rather eat at a Harvester than get involved with Random Nutter so, I decline. We’re at Red Monkey; a new bar/ izakaya from the guys behind Clapham's Underdog bars, it serves sake, shochu, sundry Nippon nibbles and lonely women, evidently. My fishy-fumed jacket’s imminent trip to the dry cleaner’s aside - sort the aircon? open a window? - it’s rather good.  Enthusiastic Parisian barman, Brice, is the shaker to know; his Japanese-y rinses, such as the (you-can’t-go-wrong-with-a) Tommy Wong, well executed and imaginatively presented. Keen to wean my Glaswegian pal off his infra dig Long Island Iced Tea habit, Brice suggests Brass Monkey - a gin martini with green tea, yuzu and shiso syrup. ‘ syrup? Is that big in Japan?’ marvels pal, shiso not yet on his Gorbals radar.  Meanwhile, the karaoke junkie is fixing for more rejection. ‘C’mon boys! It's back to mine for a session, but first, a song!’  ‘Yeh! Michael Jackson’s Beat It,’ snipes the Glaswegian. 
Red Monkey,  50 Battersea Rise SW11 7924 6288

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Parliamentary Waffle House, Soho

Still can’t decide whether to vote for the Monster Raving Loony candidate or some other chancer who will subsequently stiff you for moat cleaning or their spouse’s dirty video habit? Then, check out the Parliamentary Waffle House. Conceived by Bompas & Parr, the bar-land equivalent of Banksy, this amusing pop-up will remain open until Election Night. Aiming to predict the outcome of the tightest contest for decades, a Jon Snow-style ‘swingometer’ reflects the nation’s mercurial mood based on how punters order at the bar where everything comes in Lib, Lab or true blue flavour. ‘Aha! A  Labour man,’ exclaims one red rosette handing me a Brown-branded paper hat to wear as a badge of allegiance. ‘Undecided,’ I say. ‘I only ordered the Prescott Punch on the basis that Prezza’s glamorous (in a sort of Dallas/ Dynasty way) missus, Pauline, is the only politician’s wife I’d fancy hanging out with.’ Meanwhile, seated on raked benches à la Palace of Westminster, fellow floaters watch the campaign unfold on the big screen (oh, the excitement!) and mull over the big issues debated on the floor. Trident? Immigration? The budget deficit? Er, no: tonight’s topic is ‘should Marmite be banned?’ As promised, waffles are also served. Waffle? Politics? As if to illustrate the point, Ken Livingstone - a man who could waffle on for weeks - suddenly puts in an appearance. 
65 Broadwick St

McQueen, Shoreditch

At the launch of Shoreditch club/ bar McQueen, the security guys make this invited guest feel about as welcome as a rag-trade spy caught with a camera at one of the late Lee McQueen’s catwalk shows. My cunning velvet rope trick allows me to outfox one power-crazed charmer - mentored by Himmler, perhaps? But once inside, I meet my Waterloo in Napoleon Door-Whore, the iron-willed arbiter of who can enter his Special Lounge for Special People. I’d persevere, if rubbernecking J-Lo, Lilo, or even Subo, were on the cards, but plead to be allowed to breathe the same VIP air as the likes of Jade Jagger, bussed in as DJ, apparently? Yeh, right! Even PR pretty, tonight, about as useful as a chocolate kettle, can’t swing it. Get over yourselves! You’re a large venue that, as Tabernacle, proved fatally hard to fill; and that was when this ‘hood was still happening. If you’re styling yourself after Steve king-of-cool McQueen, why the deeply uncool ‘greeters’? So you manage to get Jodie Harsh to DJ. Who hasn't? Whistling the theme from The Great Escape, I make a break for Coq d’Argent, its welcoming roof garden, the perfect Chablis chill-out after my red carpet humiliation. I’d be interested to hear how readers rate McQueen. Me? I’m giving it the Bullitt.
McQueen, 55 Tabernacle St EC2  
Coq d’Argent, 1 Poultry EC2

Crystal Bar at the Rafayel Left Bank, Battersea

Among Battersea’s designer stalags lurks new ‘eco’ hotel, The Rafayel on the Left Bank. Oddly, it’s on the river’s right bank. Green is good but décor-wise, first impressions suggest the Rafayel is to Left Bank Parisian chic what Vanessa Feltz is to Vanessa Paradis; less Chanel chemise, more big girl’s blowsy. We’re here to christen the Crystal Bar but end up in a glitzy galleria got up as the ‘Nirvana Lounge’; a reference to a blissful mind state or to Kurt Cobain, as in overdosed - here, on garish metallics, reds, black, cluster chandeliers, prosaic plant pots and engagingly tacky ‘art’? Such sophistication might impress a convention of Northern nail bar owners but my mate, Fashion Thing, rates it ‘gauche’...and not in an Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche way.  A scrum for bubbly envelops a bar besieged. Gannets gobble what’s left of a buffet; bowls of plain pilau rice. ‘Midnight at a hairdresser’s hen do in Dubai?’ suggests Thing.  A bird in a trilby murders I Will Survive: my ears may not. Cardboard cut-outs of James Dean, Jack Sparrow and Darth Vader line the room. Why? Did no real stars RSVP? Too bored for Hunt the Crystal Bar, we make do with the ‘Japanese Garden’ - a pebble strewn deck beside a heliport. How much to airlift us from the ‘Naff-as’ell’ as Thing brands it?
Falcon Wharf, 34 Lombard Rd, SW11  7801 3600