Follow by Email

Popular Posts

Friday, 27 July 2012

Birthdays/ Rita's Bar and Dining, Dalston

Forget events at Stratford. A 100-metre strip of Stoke Newington Road hosts another sport in which Britain reigns supreme. Street style. In the 2012 sartorial dash, the beardy gays, nu-Edwardian faux-gay fogeys and fash-forward Twiglets at deeply Dalston new-kid-on-the-block, Birthdays, are gold medal contenders. Housed in a nihilist post-industrial concrete shell of the type favoured by music video directors circa Joy Division, this joyous jumpin' joint is so utterly zeitgeist, it might be a branch of trend-chasing Ted Baker by this time next year. Get in now for £6 rinses - Hibiscus Margarita, Dark and Stormy and Negroni - or ice-cold Desperados courtesy of resident peripatetic pop-up Rita’s Bar and Dining whose more-addictive-than-crack beef patty melt (£5) is among the highs on a short menu of low rider  street chow that's sending foodie bloggers into Twitpic frenzy. At the bar, Edie Sedgwick reincarnated shows me the wellies she’s customising for Bestival, inquiring whether a) I also plan to attend and b) I’m here to see Cerebral Ballzy, a Brooklyn punk outfit (appaz), appearing tonight in the live music lounge/ pogo pit-cum-sauna downstairs. Like Carrie Bradshaw, checking out some Williamsburg hipster scene where 30 counts as dead, I get to thinking: ‘Have I had too many birthdays to be at Birthdays?'
33-35 Stoke Newington Rd N16 8BJ

Friday, 20 July 2012

Escape The London Olympics

As the five-ring circus rolls into town and the hordes of sports fans descend, Londoners may find themselves hard pressed to enjoy a quiet pint or a leisurely meal. One solution: head for the hills. Keith Barker-Main suggests some alternative drinking and dining locations within easy striking distance of the capital.

READ the full article from Square Meal summer 2012 edition here

Bar Américain, Soho

When the Regent Palace Hotel was demolished, the site's developers promised its basement bar would be carefully packed away and reinstated within the new building. ‘PR twaddle, I thought.  As part of the Atlantic restaurant, it had been a fiercely stylish Beautiful People hangout circa Hugh Grant with Liz Hurley in THAT dress. All softly-lit chrome, frosted glass, dark leather and oaky ethereal gorgeousness, this elegant art deco lounge belonged in an old MGM musical set on a 1930s ocean liner. Joy of joys, it was run by drinks industry legend Dick Bradsell, inventor of Espresso Martini, Treacle, Bramble and the daft-sounding but distinctly doable Snood Murdekin -  future classic cocktails to make a chap dance on the ceiling like Fred Astaire. Bradsell has moved on -  currently to be found at Soho hip pit, The Pink Chihuahua  - but good to their word, the developers - with a little help from David Collins Studio - have indeed recreated Dick's former domain piece-by-lovely-piece. Rebranded Bar Américain, it's a destination den at Corbin  and KIng’s new baby, Zédel. Head downstairs past the Josephine Baker-style cabaret bar, Crazy Coqs, towards the main draw, a buzzy gilded Montparnasse-style brasserie,  swing a right under by the 'vestiare', et voilà - 1932 revisited. My drinking buddy claims it reminds him of the bar scene in The Shining; but any carnage here is likely to be on account of the bar's resident tuxedoed matinée idols' sours, slings and things: Sazerac, The Gatsby and The Calloway (a bourbon, port and fig flip), impeccable at £9.75. My only gripe is that, on two otherwise faultless visits,  the clientele has been less ocean liner more Coach Trip. Time for London’s beau monde to reclaim this grand old girl, surely?
20 Sherwood St W1F 7ED 7734 4888 

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Rattlesnake, Islington

Paul Daly, owner of Shoreditch bars Zigfrid and Roadtrip, chooses the fourth of July to launch his new gaff, Rattlesnake. Great name for a live music lounge, and the fact that the place is no longer the dire Walkabout bar of yore is reason enough to celebrate this new ‘American’ independent. Rock/indie/ garage thrash fans will dig a thumping sound system and a rebel yell-packed jukebox and a shed load of tequilas which - if you’re on a hot date, remember - ‘makes her clothes fall off’ according to Country crooner Joe Nichols. At tonight's launch, we’re promised Texican eats. Now, I am up there with Elvis when it comes to chowin' down on white trailer trash eats but after the umpteenthe tray of corn dogs - ‘the menu will be finalised in the next couple of months’ I’m told - I’m losing interest. Another feature isn’t yet open for inspection, sadly, but a roof garden has got to be a plus. I dig what Daly is out to do here: Easy Rider/ Arizona desert truck stop floats my boat but will the location - a chav-magnet chain-infested strip - attract a cool crowd? Upper Street, aka the A1 ain’t exactly Route 66 and the competition is tough. Other Islington American-influenced bars like Slim Jim’s Liquor Store, The Hope and Anchor and The New Rose have real rock’n’roll swagger. Rattlesnake feels a bit more Bono (circa The Joshua Tree) than dirty-sexy Lou Reed- fine if you're happy with a walk on the mild side.

56 Upper Street N1 0NY 

Friday, 6 July 2012

Evans And Peel, Earls Court

In a two-bit basement, in a dead-end street, in a no-hope neck of town (Earls Court), you'll find a pair of flimflams masquerading as gum-shoes. Tell ‘em Eddie Mars sent you. They’ll take care of you real nice. Welcome to the Raymond Chandler-esque twilight world of Evans and Peel. Here, beyond a cunningly concealed portal in the bogus private eyes’ dusty sepia tone office, lies a jumpin’ juke joint where - for those on the lam deemed kosher by the Big Cheese -  Shebas and Sheiks suck up hot hooch and hillbilly chow served on Clyde’s bonniest ol’ bone china. It’s a PR girl cliché, but for once ‘speakeasy’ really does sum up a clandestine parlour got up on a shoestring as a sleazy 1920’s Chicago gin-mill. Plied with £9.50 slugs, even a tough nut will sing like a canary after Auntie May’s Marmalade Bronx, Rum Runner (Diplomatico, sweet vermouth, Grand Marnier and coriander bitters) and half a dozen Sidecars. Bartenders are dressed up Sting-style; that's as in 1973 Redford and Newman flick, not pretentious Newcastle knob/ tantric twat, Sting: he works for the Police. Neat Prohibition era twists - ‘moonshine’ (Meantime ale) dispensed from a radiator and wine bottles concealed, Bowery bum-style, in paper bags - are fun film noir touches. So pull your glad rags on and get your gams down here pronto.  Historical fact: this swell caboodle - diagonally opposite the old apartment of a balled-up English royal who some say got bumped off by a torpedo (case closed, never proven) before she could become queen - was once a  dodgy dive where old queens queued to pay the rent: On which note, if you’re after a dick for hire, try E and P on for size. 
310C Earls Court Road SW5 9BA