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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Disco Drinks

Currently, there’s a lot of love around for the era when John Travolta, in his flash white suit, gyrated to the Bee Gees; Sylvester made everyone feel mighty real; and cowboys, construction workers and cops encouraged young men to have fun at the YMCA. Party like it’s 1978 as Keith Barker-Main steps back to the disco decade

Drink these:
Kitsch cocktail Blue Lagoon (vodka, blue Curaçao and lemonade plus plastic mermaid/paper umbrella) was as big as Boney M back in the day. Black Russian (vodka and Kalhua), Piña Colada and Harvey Wallbanger were the toast of Studio 54, but the ultimate 70’s cocktail is exotic Californian import, Tequila Sunrise.

Make it:
To make Tequila Sunrise: pour 3 parts Patrón (or similar) and 6 parts orange juice over ice. Slowly add 1 part grenadine. It will sink to the bottom of the glass, creating the ‘sunrise’ effect. Garnish with The Eagles 1970’s track of the same name.

Disco down:

LONDON: Rollerdisco
Nothing says ‘the 70s’ like a rollerdisco. Order Screwdriver (vodka and orange) and skate to I Will Survive and Young Hearts Run Free at this vibey Vauxhall club.

Book in with ten pals at a Rose Street boogie bar serving retro rinses and get a Barry White-sized ‘pizza banquet’ free on Fridays.

The clue is in the name. Add platforms, sequin boob tube and feather boa for a F-ABBA night out at a chain where disco anthems are always in the mix. 

NEWCASTLE: Quilted Camel
Le Freak, c’est chic! As are afro wigs and other fancy dress at this ‘retro 70s bar’ where it’s permanently party time.

Alternatively, throw a Saturday Night Fever party at home. Stream discos greatest hits via and get the gear here: 

Original article appeared in Metro UK 28.2.13.

Looking Glass Cocktail Club, Shoreditch

Callooh Callay may have got there first, but that has not prevented this nearby newbie from also referencing Lewis Carroll.  Given its owners' other bar is The White Rabbit in Stokie, 'Looking Glass' fits the overall brand, I suppose. What next? The Queen of Hearts - where punters down free mezcal, Aftershock and meths shooters to cheers of 'off with their heads?' Tweedledum - a niche Hoxton venue aimed at thickos - and Tweedledummer, its Brentwood twin for the TOWIE cast to hang out at? To those not used to the currently fashionable London pursuit of  'hunt the hidden door', this cocktail joint will seem a bit on the poky side. You, of course - wise to their game - will instantly identify the white framed looking glass as a portal to another dimension, in true Alice style, a magnified mirror image of your current surroundings. Into the room's concrete industrial shell - the place was formerly a rag trade wholsealer's - chuck tacky antiqued Louis XVI furniture as found in geriatric Jews' Golders Green villas ('Why buy a load of old schlock for thousands of pounds when you can find the same thing, only brand new, for a pony in a sale on the Edgware Road, bubeleh?') To this, add DJs, live bands, burlesque and cocktails that just keep getting curiouser and curiouser. Pop Goes The Walrus (a buttered popcorn-infused bourbon and caramel sundae) and Looking Glass Fizz (stewed ‘brambly’ apples, blackcurrant, gingerbread and prosecco) may not scream 'DRINK ME!' (to me), but if High Tea (vodka, strawberry jam, milk and rum'n'raisin ice cream) is your cuppa, hare down to Hoxditch and discover Wonderland! 
49 Hackney Road E2 7613 3936  

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Crystal Bar at the Wellesley, Belgravia

Once a Tube station (witness the original LU oxblood tiles outside), latterly this building housed Pizza on the Park. It's perhaps symbolic of London's position as the bluest of blue squares on the global edition Monopoly board that the Maserati masses who have recently colonised SW1 care not a jot for pizza and pichet of plonko di Puglia, demanding instead sevruga and the sort of smokes that Mayfair hedgies and showy Northern oiks with too much money to burn after landing the Euromillions jackpot might splash out on. '£3,000 for one ruddy cee-gar? I remember when we used to sneak Embassy Regals behind the borstal's bike sheds, oor Brian!' Captured in oils, Cuban aficionados JFK and Churchill survey a luxurious cigar lounge. It is serviced by a state-of-the-art walk-in humidor wherein reside anything from £12.50 panatelas to boxed sets whose £120,000 cost could buy the entire terrace of Sunderland 2 up 2 downs oor Brian wuz brought up in, had they not all been flattened to make way for his auld toon's new Lidl. At this opulent new boutique hotel, choose from one of two lavish indoor/outdoor terraces where lighting up is permitted - 'opulent' and 'lavish' used here as euphemisms for the sort of damped down bling oil-rich Russian oilgarchs and their desert rat pack equivalents are big on: let's just say, the Yemeni-owned Wellesley's look is not so much Shaker chic, more Sheik Yermoney at Harrods circa the Egyptian grocer. Fancy a scotch? Its selection of single malt whiskies, eaux de vie and cognacs gives Salvatore Calabrese's stellar collection across the road at The Playboy Club a run for its money, so prepare to cough up a harem scarem £5,000 for a double shot of rare Macallan single malt. Cocktails are more accessible at £15 for a range of classics and novelties such as 'Grass-tasty-hopper' or Italian Margarita (reposado tequila, lime/lemon sorbet, agave syrup and kirsch). As a nod to the building’s Pizza on the Park days, regular live music has been retained in the Jazz Room and there's a bijou jewel box of a restaurant. There's also a night bus stop outside; not that that this will register with Crystal's clientele: handy as hell for any Bulgarian bus boys employed within, tho'. 
The Wellesley Hotel 11 Knightsbridge SW1 7235 3535 

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Portside Parlour, Hackney

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum! And what bastard stole my original Westwood pirate shirt now that I need it most? Tonight I'm swashbuckling out East to a new pop-up...if I can find the ruddy place (I've got until at least May 2013 to do so, I'm told) Let's see...clue 1: locate Off Broadway, a popular Hackney haunt set in a street market that packs up around the time Portside P opens (5 pm). Clue 2: make as if to spend a penny….and hello sailor! We're in to what looks like a cosy, candlelit take on a Captain Pugwash's cabin; although, this being PC Hack-en-ee, there'll be no smutty Seaman Staines, Master Bates and Roger the Cabin Boy jokes here, Matey. (Did you know? You can still buy Matey, my favourite childhood bubble bath introduced to me by a caring auntie because 'all the nice boys love a sailor' as she put it, cryptically...presciently). Set up in collaboration with Appleton Estate, Portside P's back bar boasts over 50 rums including barrel-aged rarities and Venezuelan Santa Teresa Rhum Orange liqueur. From £8, choose from a selection of grogs, cups, punch, slings, daiquiris, and just about any other style of drink the tar's tot of choice is suited to. Order Mai Tai (£8), spiced rum mulled cider or Hot Buttered Rum (served from copper kettles) from £12 for two to share. Should rum not be your cup of tea, so to speak, you’ll find beers from Kernel and Hackney microbrewery Craft. The soundtrack is appropriately Jack Sparrow/ Keith Richards/ Johnny Kidd and the Pirates (pictured) Shakin' All Over ...and if you don't know that particular tune, that's what's YouTube is for. 
63 - 65 Broadway Market E8 4PH 

BYOC, Covent Garden

It should, strictly speaking, be called BYOB. BYOC, U C,  is not licensed to sell booze, merely to mix cocktails for 'guests' who bring their own hooch and pay a £20 entry fee. Served in vintage stemware, cocktails are created by adding non-alcoholic ingredients and garnishes from a rickety drinks trolley. This squeaky vintage prop -  rescued from a 1950s Terence Rattigan play by the looks of it - is wheeled from end to end of the underground bunker by owner, dapper Dan Thomson. The manoeuvre takes all of two seconds. The premise at this nanoscale bar is not unlike the deal at London's supperclubs - only supper, at BYOC, is limited to charcuterie, cheese and fruit platter. The ambience is cosy, clubby and convivial and fellow guests are encouraged to pool alcoholic resources. This gives busy bee Thomson - or a capable stand-in when Dan's off tending bar at Milk and Honey -  scope to rustle up all manner of old- and new-fashioned honeyz. Secreted in the crepuscular cellar of a small juice bar, with its scratchy blues and my-man-done-me-wrong torch songs, BYOC feels closer to the real deal than any other London 'speakeasy' - with the exception of frisson-inducing genuinely underground enterprises I can't name here, lest I find a horse's head in my bed after the cops close them down on account of my indiscretion. Testimony to Danny boy's drinks, we extend our 2-hour table booking  to four. After the ninth variation on a classic Tanqueray 10 martini - the one that involved pepper, grapefruit bitters..... and Cillit Bang kitchen cleaner for all I care by this stage - the next drink I remember, is the following morning's emergency Berocca. Annihilation never felt so good. In fact, I plan to sit out Armageddon in this get-bombed shelter. Just me, Dan, the entire stock of Gerry's Soho liquor store,  and a dozen fellow cocktail-lovin' cockroaches.
28 Bedfordbury WC2 . No telephone. For reservations info, see

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Mizuwari, Soho

I'm no great fan of Japan. My advice-to-self, whenever I've worked there, has been 'soak up the corporate hospitality, take the Kyoto temple tour, get Comedy Garçons to fix the Jimmy Krankie-length sleeves on their lovely asymmetric jacket, then take the client's yen and run, hon.'  Seen through my gaijin eyes, (sweeping generalisation following) the Japanese are deeply deeply deeply odd sausages. How "odd'? I'm no shrinking violet; but some of the more extreme kidult cartoon comic porn these guys get off on makes Jimmy Savile-san look about as pervy as fluffy Orville the Duck by comparison. (Not that any bird that entertains Keith Harris's fist up its harris isn't equally odd; but you get my drift). Japan oozes style - an Issey Miyake dress as sculpture; the arcane meaning of the tea ceremony;  those geisiha girls that do New Romantic slap better than Boy George ever could. A trip to Tokyo is a trip indeed - wired, weird and guaranteed wildly entertaining. But so too, are my more eccentric friends and, like them, I suggest, exposure is best limited to small doses. As for whisky produced in the Land of the Rising Sun, as a son of Caledonia, my loyalty is to oor ain uisge beathe, OBVIOUSLY. Besides, look what the Japanese version does to Tokyo salarymen. After a few shots - an amount that widnae even qualify as a wee gargle in Glasgow - Hiro, Harumi, Hyoshi  and the rest of the boys from HSBC are rolling in the gutter, parking the fishy contents of their lunchtime bento box. That, or murdering Boney M at the local karaoke - "La-la-lasputin rover of the lush and queen." But what's this? With its finest Suntory whiskies, the new dive bar  - a Yukuza gangster dark, louche and conspiratorial cellar - at perma-packed Bincho Yakitori could yet convert me to the Japanese cause? That's because most of the aged distillations on offer here are a match for some of Scotia's finest. (What's gaelic for 'fatwa', as in the one now on my head for blasphemy, in force whenever I advance beyond Berwick-on-Tweed?)  Complex, sophisticated, cherry-sherry-smokey-oaky (so good I might also hit the karaoke), Hibiki 23-year-old could flatten you faster than a sandaname Sumo - if you slug rather than sip a spirit worthy of serious respect and attention. As for Hakashu Heavily Peated versus Laphroaig? My money's still on the latter, but expect the deciding bout to go the distance. Suave single malts from Nikka and rarities from the Karuizawa distillery (now mothballed) are worth shelling out for, and entry-level Suntory is a useful base for quality cocktails. Try Semei (Hibiki 12 maraschino liqueur, absinthe and lemon) and Risshun (Yamazaki 12, plum liqueur and ginger) - menu highlights at £11.50. The bar's name 'mizuwari' translates as 'mix with water'. Sound advice for Tokyo lightweights. Talking of lightweights; it's a great place to shift the flab, Japan. Sushi, green tea, a bit of Friday-night bulimia; you'll come back as thin as a skewer. Just like the ones Mizuwari uses for its tasty bar bites. 
16 Old Compton Street W1 7287 9111 

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Upper West, Chelsea

Some claim it is to be the party of the year. It should have been the party of last year, but the grand opening of this gaff has been rescheduled twice. Tonight, it's actually happening. With Made In Chelsea's Cheska as chief cheerleader - tweeting rapturously about her friend Alexander Nall-Cain's 'new amazing club' on the King's Road - we're on the red carpet at Upper West. I'm excited. This venue - like Alexander's pater, Lord Brocket, has previous form. As The Aretusa, it was the epicentre of Swinging London. John and Yoko made their first coupled-up public appearance here,  and a former Vogue cover girl/ King's Road dolly bird of my acquaintance claims it was the 1960s equivalent of Studio 54. On which note, Upper West fancies it is set to bring a dose of New York 'über-style'  to London. As an ex-NewYorker, an underage regular at Studio 54, Upper West sounds right up my strada. Oh! Dear! Judging by the decor, the decade that springs to mind is the 90s... as furnished by The Reject Shop and lit by Texas Homecare (remember those two early high street casulaties?)  As for New York style: what bit of that great metropolis has escaped me? Canarsie? The 54; it's not. There again, Alex's partner Jad Lahoud 'spent two years at of the capital's coolest venues.' As I've always rated that Kensington fleshpot marginally less attractive than HMP Pentonville, our idea of 'über-style' is never going to accord. As for the promised 'amazing roof garden'... 'We're waiting for warmer weather' claims Alexander. This, I take to be public school boy code for 'it ain't bleedin finished, squire, innit?' No matter. The Chelsea sticks in their uniform night drag - think Essex girl Amy Childs, only paler, and much less intelligent despite the private education - squeal like baby seals excited to have washed up together on this new pleasure beach. Their male counterparts - who look like younger versions of Michaels Heseltine, Gove or Prince ..... of Kent - do that strange backslappy bromance thing Eton and Windsor boys (as in went to Eton/ belong to the House of Windsor) do whenever they meet. We drink Champagne which, on closer inspection, turns out to be Arestel Cava...currently £3.99 at a certain supermarket - nearest branch, Clapham Junction. For all this lot know, Lidl is a downmarket ski resort in Austria. We're served fried macaroni cheeseballs and mini-hot dogs gone cold. Should have gone to Iceland. That's a shop not a Nordic isle where daddy got his fat banker fingers badly burnt, by the way. The night's 'stars' - Ollie, Cheska and the rest of their ridiculous reality show's cast show up, just as I'm legging it. I may live in the Royal Borough, but I'm sooo not Made In Chelsea, clearly. A Twitpic (above), posted by host Alex, neatly sums up my view on the whole poshy-doshy scene that is a rite of passage for the young SW3 set. Spool forward to  reel 2: the typical female Upper Westie (let's call her Lucinda), now 55, fat and fukt, will be stranded out West in the converted Marlborough manse she hung on to in the divorce settlement with Rupert after the slimy toad was caught rogering Roger, his coke-crazy banker gym buddy/ best man at their 2014 Chelsea registry office wedding. Gaga on Gordon's gin at an hour when others are contemplating getting up, Lucinda's crumpet face will crumple as it turns to Lolly the labrador, her only true friend, asking through her tears, how it ever came to this.
107 King's Road SW3

Friday, 1 February 2013

Don't Be A Dance-floor Donut: The Rules

How embarrassing! Breezing up to a nightclub door, you’re knocked back. Where did you go wrong? Maybe you broke THE RULES. Check out my essential disco dos and don'ts here

(pictured: Studio 54 -the man in the moon's golden rule? 'Let it snow!')