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Thursday, 31 March 2011

Jam Tree, Fulham

At the private view of Proud Chelsea’s Sex, Drugstores and Rock & Roll: A History of the King’s Road, a bevy of demobed dolly birds and 60s faces now in their sixties are out in their finery. How fashion-fantastic that thoroughfare must have been in its patchouli-drenched Sergeant Pepper heyday. Nowadays, it’s a boulevard of bland, boring as a Boden-ed-up Belgian banker. By the bridge where Chelsea slums it with Fulham, there’s a new kid on the block, Olympia food pub The Jam Tree’s second branch. A big decked beer garden defies the sun not to shine from now until September and I like the main room’s funked-up new Britannia pose. A shortish wine list peddles quaffable stuff at under a score but upgrade to a zesty Picpoul de Pinet (£23.50), good with ‘colonial’ pub food: that’s Malaysian spicy noodle soup (laksi), Jamaican chicken curry (£12.50) and nasi goreng but not haggis unless they want their windows pushed through by outraged Bravehearts. The signature cocktail, (strawberry) Jam Mojito, is well enough executed but doesn’t improve on the classic recipe. On my second reccie, the crowd is a mix of Chelsea bland blondes and Chelseigh and her lairy Plan B lookalike mates from Fulham’s remaining ungentrified terraces. Stylish? In the 90s, this site housed Revolution, or at least that's what my brain cell thinks one of Jam Tree II's on-trend-for-a-nano-second predecessors was called. Sadly, King's Road's cool crown has long since slipped. The new owners should look to Haggerston or Deptford for Jam Tree III.
541 King's Road SW6 2EB 020 3397 3739 www.thejamtree.com

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Sky Lounge, The City

With the Nikkei in free-fall, some City traders risked vast amounts of wedge on a swift rebound for troubled Japan’s markets - 'someone else’s misery is another's golden buying opportunity' the maxim in these parts. By the time you read this, the carrion crows will either be be shirtless, s**t-faced on cheap vodka, or toasting a tidy profit in champagne - Armand de Brignac rosé (£600), say - on one of two sun decks at Mint Hotel’s Sky Bar. So popular is this new DJ lounge, reservations are already advisable, long before summer kicks in. What’s the big attraction? Not the hotel itself, as anodyne as any Square Miler’s stark Starck bachelor pad. No, it’s those views, yours for the price of beer. At £9 plus for a bottle of Goose Island Matilda or Belgian brute, Bière du Démon, a liquid cosh at 12% A.B.V, think of it as an investment. For, I’d pay twice as much for any panorama that encompasses Tower Bridge, The Gherkin and the shimmering Shard, breathtakingly beautiful by night. Similarly tasty, are cocktails such as Blackjack,  a liquorice-infused Buffalo Trace old fashioned and Hard Shoulder (£10.50), a Monkey Shoulder toddy that drinks like cold Lemsip - useful for this virused-up hacking hack, full of man flu tonight. Not to be confused with Sky Bar, a new loft I loathe down Westminster way, Sky Lounge is a banker for bankers and snap-happy tourists. Make it a Nikon: Japan needs your bucks. Mint Hotel, 7 Pepys St, EC3 0845 601 3009  http://tinyurl.com/68lcw6r

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Foundation, Covent Garden

Foundation in Covent Garden comes courtesy of LatenightLondon, the behemoth that begat Tiger Tiger, Sway and Grace, inter alia. At their latest trademark megabar-diner-cum-nightclub, a mishmash of funky, loud retro styling ideas suggests its designers have been on a crawl of London’s edgier bars: Callooh Callay; Lounge Bohemia; Danger of Death - it all looks vaguely familiar. If I were 19, up-West on a date with Ashleigh, a junior stylist at Curl Up & Dye of Ilford, I’d be well-impressed by such sophistication. Unlike Ash, our drinks don’t cut it. Pear and Cinnamon Mojito tastes like licking the jammy layer in a poncey French yogurt pot while my editor strikes a mental red pen mark through her chosen cocktail. Billed as an ‘excessive and fabulous red hibiscus daiquiri...Darling!’ Holly Golightly could be a melted alco-ice pole for all I know: less Breakfast at Tiffany, more rinse at Ratner’s, this liquid bauble's cost is excessive. For something truly fabulous,  take your £9 to Hawksmoor across the street, darling. Cute staff / ditzy service deliver bog standard steak sandwich and fish finger sarnie. It's the kind of scran I’d probably appreciate more, blootered and famished at 3 am. If Nicki Minaj, Hollyoaks, CKOne, Superdry and a dissertation on how fit (or not) are the birds on Jersey Shore - our neighbours’ specialist subject - work for you, Foundation might just float your boat. It sure as hell ain't aimed at me.
5 Langley St WC2H 9JA 7836 5005http://www.foundation-bar.co.uk 

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Dime Bar and Diner, Battersea

If it’s broke, fix it! The thinking, I imagine, behind this venue’s recent Americanisation. Out goes all pan-Asian pretence - its previous short-lived pose as The Red Monkey having not exactly wowed SW11 -  junked in favour of a Mad Men-era cocktail lounge-cum-diner that's, spiritually, from somewhere down Vegas way. Gamblers might fancy a £7 punt on Pink Cadillac, Big Apple Sour, Bluegrass Cosmo or Chuck Berry Julep (honeyed Bourbon, fresh blueberries, plum and mint) or Jackie O ( a vodka, lychee, blueberry and elderflower Collins). Wandering Bear - American chardonnay at £16.50 -  is one of a dozen or so wines on offer and Yankee ale includes Brooklyn lager. To eat: Elvis burger; tuna melt; pulled pork; calamari; wings; macaroni cheeses... and scant pickings for veggies. What has been retained from the site’s previous incarnation, are three state-of-the-art karaoke suites from £30. ‘Hit The Road, Jack’ to Clapham Junction if you fancy it . One question: will there be enough takers? Buddies, can you spare The Dime? 
50 Battersea Rise SW11 7924 6288 http://www.thedimebar.co.uk/ 

For more of my reviews like this, go to www.squaremeal.co.uk 


Amaranto, Mayfair

At the Four Seasons, re-opened after a £125 million makeover, a scripted limpet attaches himself to me to promulgate ‘the concept ‘ behind Amaranto, its new drinks/ dining zone. Mesmerised by my dramatic abattoir red surroundings, I don’t hear him. As with creator Yves-Pierre Rochon’s gauche rehash of The Savoy, here’s more heroically hilarious designer swank. Fascist Futurist bas-relief; horsey hideousness; wine libraries behind glass; geegaws I swear I saw at TK Maxx; a lurid representation of the Four Seasons (as in weather, not Franki Valli); zebra print chairs at a vast polished table on which I envisage a decrepit, debauched Prime Minister of some basket case Mediterranean economy polishing off a tartelette by way of an amuse bouche; an open flame effect fire that's one sheepskin rug short of a hooker's shag pad: I’m getting Mussolini’s marbled palazzo booked for a 70s porn shoot. Worryingly, I quite like it. Cocktails work: date’s aperitivo hour classic, negroni sbagliato, is served with a wasabi nut mountain; cinnamon fig sour winks at me but I owe it to our OTT surroundings to go for gold. Flaked gold leaf floating in Cavalli vodka and Martini Gold by Dolce & Gabbana, the Hamilton Place martini is (Amanda) Lear jet-class camp at £18.50. Later, as Amaranto’s credit card terminal goes into terminal decline, I’m left dangling for fully ten minutes, sans apology. More time to gawp. Mubarak; Gaddafi; Brangelina (reportedly Four Seasons fans); leathery Latin lizards with dodgissimo taste: here’s your spiritual home. In his mustard Toytown soldier's uniform, a doorman bids us adieu to the strains of Cole Porter played on a (red ) baby grand. Camp or what?
Four Seasons London at Park Lane, Hamilton Place W1 7499 0888

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The Arch Bar, W1

Refurbished in the currently fashionable mix of art deco/1950s-inspired anodyne chic favoured by many venues aimed at the Business Class buck, what was the Intercontinental's Lobby Bar has been re-invented. As The Arch Bar, it promises ‘unobstructed views of gardens, parks and the iconic Wellington Arch.’ Sightseers should avoid the adjacent lounge we’re initially consigned to for tea: two dark ‘phone boxes, like big dirty Daleks, skulk outside to spoil the much anticipated view (see left : what lies beyond those annoying lumps of metal). Better to secure a high stool at the attractive bar counter and view said Arch and Piccadilly’s roaring traffic - a thrilling prospect to contemplate as you dip into a fine selection of over two dozen gins and gin-based cocktails. Try Old Time Tipple (Berkeley Square basil-infused gin muddled with fresh tomato & cranberry), or cherry sweetened Mother’s Ruin which uses the new Six O’Clock Gin, so named because it harnesses only half a dozen botanicals such as orange peel, elderflower and the mandatory juniper. For gin avoiders, there’s rummy champagne granita at £16, coconut & chilli mojito or a range of wines, many English, as well as  ales and occasional live music. 
Intercontinental London Park Lane, 1 Hamilton Place W1J 7QY 7409 3131 http://www.intercontinental.com

Adapted from my review for www.squaremeal.co.uk 

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Sky Bar, Westminster



A uniformed ‘air hostess’ (pole dancer? Albania's Eurovision entry?) shows us into a new cocktail spot. As far as a film of grime on the windows permits, the views from Millbank Tower’s 29th floor impress . ‘Wow!’ we gush giddily for fully five minutes before, all coo-ed out and done with drooling over the giant erection that is The Shard, we turn our attention to Sky Bar itself. Membership here costs £2,500, but for twenty notes, you too can temporarily join whoever might fancy a night in an anodyne shiny, white box with op-Art furniture and colour wash lighting. I'm guessing dictators’ sons, oily-garchs and vajazzled bimbos. Lindsay Lowlife has lived the high life within and Jack Tweed  has graced the lofty pile with his stellar presence, as has his bezzie, pie and mash-faced cock of Ilford East, Mark The Only Way Is Essex Wright, I hear. ‘Ideal for a big fat gypsy wedding reception’ sniffs Milanese fashion designer friend, loftily. For my £2,500, I’d expect the bar to have tomato juice. No joy. On-the-wagon date agrees to mineral water. It’s served in a plastic beaker. Classy! I’m intrigued by Salt and ‘Peper’ cocktail, 'Crystal' and ‘Amand de Brignon’ champagne (£400). Is that supermarket own brand or do they mean Armand de Brignac? Maybe any profits can go towards a swift reprint of a menu littered with howlers? Are Sky Bar's cocktails worth £12.50 (service excluded)? Search me!  I have to put up with prosecco bellini from a bar besieged. Lukewarm, astringent, pointless, it languishes unloved. We sit contemplating ice buckets (pictured) devoid of champagne that will never come. Hold on! What's this? I set off like Usain Bolt in pursuit of a quartet comely martinis I've spotted on a waiter's tray a hundred metres distant, only to be told they are for guests at a dinner that is happening behind closed, guarded doors. Somebody says Shayne Ward is at a table. But so far as I can see, even he's not in the house tonight.  F***** off, we flee. For cocktails with killer views in cooler surroundings, take your £20 to Paramount atop Centrepoint. New Labour’s 1997 victory was celebrated at Millbank Tower. That night’s anthem occurs to me: Things Can Only Get Better. Over a bottle of cheap red at Pizza Express next door, things finally do.
29th Floor Millbank Tower, 21 - 24 Millbank SW1P 4QP 0845 500 2929