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Friday, 31 August 2012

The North Pole, De Beauvoir Town

It’s been a treasured pub/ community hub since 1840; but, will the North Pole in W10 now be allowed to quietly melt away? Note to Kensington & Chelsea Council planning wonks: don't imagine what we really really want to spice up our lives is another ruddy Tesco mini-mart! Across town, after a Northern Line journey as arduous as any expedition Shackleton ever undertook, I discover another North Pole pub. Unrelated to the former, it battles on valiantly. Spruced up nu-Victorian stylee, what intrepid explorers will discover at this off-piste boozer, are honestly priced craft beers from £1.60, scrummy scrumpy, decent vino and good grub. On a sun-trap patio, slake your thirst on two dozen or so hand-pulled ales from the likes of London Fields, Redemption, Innis & Gunn and Cornwall’s Harbour Brewing. Bottled amber includes numerous Yanks, Mexicanos and Continentals. Try Norwegian brewer Nøgne Ø’s porter and IPA or Germany’s Schneider Aventinus, a doppelbock ruby Rottweiler at 8.2% abv. Eats encompass anything from pint of prawns, pizzas, mac’n’cheese or jerk chicken with ‘slaw rice and peas (£11) to snarfable sliders and burgers. Exile fidgety kidults to a play den that offers  Pac-Man, Space Invaders, pinball and - yay, baby - a vintage juke box. Reinvigorated under new landlords, N1’s North Pole looks good for decades...or at least until it shows up on the radar of some colonising retail juggernaut that spreads like the pox.
188 -190 New North Road N1 7BJ  7354 5400 

Friday, 24 August 2012

Crate Brewery, Hackney

On a steamy August night, Hackney Wick’s gritty industrial estates recall a 70’s Blaxploitation flick set in The Bronx circa Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto. In E9, it’s estate agents who are cleaning up, marketing this ‘urban village's’ desirable designer pads to young professionals. East London's shiny new middle class is out in force tonight, crowding onto tables on the canal towpath at Crate Brewery, the latest microbrewery/ bar combo catering to our new-found thirst for artisanal craft ales. Available on tap in its adjacent bar-cum-canteen, intense, hoppy, nutty Golden Ale - one of  three house draughts - is as good as I’ve tasted lately. Equally intriguing, is Brewfist Space Man: a notable Italian from a range of imported bottled beers that includes Bear Republic’s California-brewed Red Rocket. Crate’s owners have imaginatively kitted out the brewery's taphouse-cum-canteen, warming up an austere breeze block shell with a bar made from old railway sleepers. A mishmash of furniture is wittily fashioned on the cheap from what looks like Eddie Stobart’s cast-offs: crates, pallets, trolleys, heavy duty webbing and the likes. Dominating one wall, a humungous pizza oven takes pride of place.  ‘Yum’ I say, contemplating my (£8) red onion, courgette, feta and gremolata thin crust. ‘Double yum!’ says my date, clocking ' a 'spicy salami' and the exotic waiter who serves us: in a T-shirt bearing Jim Morrison’s image,  he makes The Doors’s smouldering late frontman look plain by comparison.
Unit 7, White Building, Queens Yard, E9 5EN 

Friday, 17 August 2012

Ping, Earl's Court

65 Olympic medals? Wow! But as Britain has never won one at table tennis, now is the time to get into training for Rio. Conveniently, the sport is currently trending in London’s bars. Pending Bounce, All-Star Lanes’ £2.5 million customised Holborn pile, perfect your best pen-hold grip at new late-night lounge Ping’s three tables. Witty street art from I Love Dust (of MEATliquor renown), and deep sofas for critical time-outs set the scene for Ping's not-so-punishing boot camp. Body fluids re-balanced on isotonic rhubarb Aperol spritz, reflexes razor-sharp on £7.70 espresso martini, muscles energised by carb-rush pukka pizza - blue cheese, walnut and pear, perhaps- spank the competition at wiff-waff, table tennis’s original name, or get involved in a beer pong tournament, the get-messy drinking games enthusiast’s ultimate marathon. With rhythmic gymnastics courtesy of DJs such as Radio 1 Xtra’s Sarah-Jane Crawford, parallel bars to take to, and male Tatler totty to be ogled: Olivers Proudlock and Cheshire (Pixie Lott’s model squeeze), cricketing hunk Rory Hamilton-Brown and Daniel Radcliffe - the boy that cast a spell over a nation's children, and now that he's fully grown and prone to whipping his man-child kit off on stage, Mums too, creepy as that is -  have all been in. At weekends, Ping is fast becoming posh mosh pit central. ‘Earl’s Court just got edgy’ tweets one fan of a venue whose guest-list boasts more double-barrels than a Chelsea locksmith. Made In Hackney, may wish to avoid.
180 Earl’s Court Road SW5 9QG   

Friday, 10 August 2012

Il Bar at The Bulgari, Knightsbridge

Molto swanky new Italian hotel The Bulgari imagines Knightsbridge ‘the heart of London.’ If you’re Nancy Dell’Olio or the sort of Vuittoned-up vulgarian/ lucky sod (delete as appropriate) whose idea of B&B involves a £9,000 + per night suite of ‘peerless magnificence’, champagne, caviar and bathing your ‘arris in asses milk, it probably is. Yet, for just £13.50 for Three Herbs Julep or smoked rosemary and bergamot martini (sweet service and a navvy-sized platter of breads, garlic olives, stuffed peppers and charcuterie included), Plebs can briefly party in the emperor's new clothes, living la dolce vita at Il Bar. An imposing silver lid-off flying saucer-shaped vision, its ‘tenders know their cocktail onions. I order an À La Louisiane # 2. My request for a take on an overlooked New Orleans classic would see less savvy souls log on to - answer: bourbon, Bénédictine, absinthe, bitters and sweet vermouth. Here, it's competently parried in a beat with ‘do you prefer Martini Rosso or Carpano Antica, sir?’ I’d score Il Bar higher but for the clenched-ass 90s chic barn it inhabits. Deadly dull. I half expect its dreary drapes to open as a Mafia capo’s gardenia-covered coffin trundles past to an Italian cover of My Way. Yep, if Prada did funeral parlours…... In the alley outside, a kiosk’s awning announces ‘lottery tickets / bus passes.’ After one drink, this EuroMillions  serial loser flashes his and boards a red number 74 home. I fancy Nancy could walk back to hers, although the world's most impossibly glamorous woman probably insists on being carried by liveried servants. 
Bulgari Hotel 171 Knightsbridge SW7 7151 1010 

Friday, 3 August 2012

Flat P, Hampstead (NOW CLOSED)

Wall-to-wall coverage of summer 2012's squalid orgy of corporate greed that has turned my city into a five ring circus drones on; unlike Mayor Bozo's booming looped LU Tube tannoy announcement which has been dropped, mercifully, for being all too persuasive. The gist of his jolly irritating joyous proclamation was that all right-minded people should avoid London like the plague, abandoning it to badly dressed fans of archery, pin the tail on the donkey, mud-wrestling and midget-throwing. Thankfully, the only time the O-word crops up tonight is during a game of bitch volleyball; my sharp stylist date dismissing Team GB’s Next-designed white and gold trackies as 'chip-shop hip-hop.’ Unlike at LOGOC's venues, no seats remain unsold at Hampstead’s latest draw. In a dishy room where thirty is a squeeze and drinks are medal contenders; that’s hardly surprising. Up a Stygian staircase accessed via hot new hot dogs, sliders and bourbon joint, Dach & Sons, lies Flat P; a soft focus retro cocktail lounge pimping late-night lovelies more sexy than any local resident pop star out cruising the Heath could hope to lock lips with. To scratchy 1930s dance band tunes, we get squiffy in a jiffy. Green Fairy Sazerac; Crystal Clear Martinez (£9); lavender bitters, prosecco and pomegranate foam-topped flute, Backwards Bellini; Counted But Not Out (Chase Marmalade vodka, Aperol and Carpano red vermouth): these are the sort of quality quaffs that have gained the peeps behind Flat P a loyal following. That said, I prefer this intimate space to its big sisters, Marylebone cellar Purl (awkward layout) and Worship Street Whistling Shop which, to me, would work well as a set for a gloomy Edwardian murder mystery. The only mystery here is why they are actively courting publicity. Like Chinatown’s ECC or NYC’s PDT (Please Don’t Tell) before it, a nod and a wink has filled FP PDQ.
68 Heath Street NW3