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Saturday, 26 November 2016

Spiritland, King's Cross

Following an initial residency at Angela Hartnett’s Merchants Tavern, Paul Noble, Patrick Clayton-Malone and Dominic Lake take their music appreciation concept to the next level with this classy King’s Cross audio and record store/ listening lounge/ cafe/ bar/ chill-out. With the drop-dead cred' likes of Severino, Andy Weatherall, Patrick Forge, Ian Dewhirst and Jarvis Cocker playing vinyl on its peerless bespoke-built analogue system, Spiritland is manna to music lovers whose lugs and frontal lobes embrace all genres and eras. Food is overseen by Owen Kenworthy (Blueprint Cafe, ex-Brawn). Go early for morning coffee and pastries and NYC-London brunch staples followed by an all day menu that might typically offer chicken soup with matzo balls, salt beef or pesto caprese sandwich, aubergine parmigiana, a  daily pasta dish, salads, sausage roll, charcuterie and cheeses. Choose from three dozen wines from £25 (Southern Rhône red)  and Thornbridge Chiron on tap among other local and imported craft beers. £10 cocktails include Sakamoto Sorbet (Brooklyn Gin, limoncello, basil and Belsazar white vermouth) and Deez Nuts, a Ron Abuelo 7, smoked rosemary, toasted pecan and bitter chocolate jazzy old fashioned to accompany Ella, Billie, Dinah and the Blue Note boys.
Granary Square, 9 - 10 Stable Street N1C 4AB 

Zelman Drinks, Finsbury Park

Gagging for a gargle, stuck in cattle truck conditions on the Victoria Line? Alight at Finsbury Park where the crew behind Burger and Lobster, Goodman, Beast and Zelman Meats ( Soho and Harvey Nichols) have opened a lo-fi loafers’ lounge at what was The Silver Bullet (an indie music venue that, from December 2016, is set to rock Seven Sisters). Post-industrial distressed decor and an on-point mash-up of  rocky, retro, funk, electro and Balearic beats pumped through a kick-ass sound system set the scene for heritage cocktails such as Penicillin, Negroni Sbagliato and Southside Royal (£7.50) and East 8 Hold-Up; the latter, a vodka Aperol, pineapple and passion fruit modern London classic conceived by Kevin Armstrong (Satan’s Whiskers/ Silk Stockings) after his chum was mugged while in full flow, so to speak, late one night in Hackney! On a sweet tip, Dublin Brace Up calls for stout, whiskey, condensed milk and gingerbread syrup. Alternatively, order wines on tap and various Beavertown brews. Korean-style hot wings, mac’n’cheese, sliders, spit roasted pork belly with cheesy grits, or bitterballen (Dutch meatballs) with mustard are what to scoff as Finsbury Park parties until  as late as 4am at the weekend.
5 Station Place, N4 2DH 7842 8523

Friday, 25 November 2016

Sakagura, Mayfair

The Land of the Rising Sun’s national tipples of choice, saké - essentially wine made by fermenting polished rice - and its stronger cousin shochu - principally distilled from barley, buckwheat, sweet potato or sugar cane as well as from rice - are very much a niche taste among London drinkers. At this chic new Japanese restaurant, knowledgeable (Italian) staff enlighten you on the finer points of the drinks properties, heritage and culture. Sakagura (literally, ‘saké cellar’) stocks over 60 of the country’s finest saké, shochu and umeshu (plum wine) available by the glass, carafe or bottle at up to a sobering £1,000. Matured in cedar casks, creamy-sweet gekkeikan tarusaka, entry level at around £5.50 a glass, works well with assorted sahsimi, one of various bar snacks such as Wagyu beef, fresh velvety tuna tartare and tender chicken and burdock root skewers. Served with daikon (radish) and konbu dashi (savoury) dipping sauce, vegetable tempura that is dense and bland strikes the only dud note. The Japanese are also mad keen on whisky; a dozen or so indigenous distillations the base, here, for various highballs and well-balanced cocktails. At £13, Whisky Risky (Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve, saké, green Chartreuse, mint and yuzu bitters, pictured below) is a risk well worth taking. Saké, rather than gin, in a barrel-aged Nipppon-style Negroni makes for a lighter take on the Italian original. Japanese craft beers and spontaneous origami demonstrations are further reason to prop up Sakagura’s elegant destination bar.

8 Heddon Street W1B 4BS 3405 7230

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Samarkand, Fitzrovia

I  first visited Moscow when it was the capital of The Soviet Union. A grey, grindingly grim gulag populated by surly, downtrodden paupers in naff Nylon tracksuits, it felt only marginally to the left of Jeremy Corbyn's vision for a more egalitarian Britain. In terms of diet (ubiquitous fried sturgeon  tougher even than Nicola, Tsarina of Scotland), for a foodie, Moscow's only saving grace was its limitless stock of precious foreign exchange-earning luxury vodkas. It was only heroic intake of said bad boys that stopped my balls falling off en route to the Bolshoi whose thieving cloakroom babushkas would have happily sent a mate and me, like Zhivago and Lara, back out into the frigid windswept wasteland without the designer coats we had consigned to their care - cue a Cold War stand-off that saw World War III only narrowly avoided. Lately, Eastern Europe's signature tipple has been marginalised in London bars. But as the capital reaches 'peak gin,' I increasingly crave the clean hit of a textbook vodka martini. At the mezzanine bar at Samarkand, billed as London’s only Uzbek destination restaurant, there are over 100 premium brands from either side of the old Iron Curtain. But it's Russia that runs the show (natch). Served on a silver platter with a spoonful of caviar, a squid ink vodkatini uses Beluga Noble - entry level among a sterling selection that Russia's chest-puffing potato-faced Prez, Putin, can be truly proud prices that would make Roman Abramovich wince. The mark of a killer martini, Samarkand's acts as liquid cocaine to the brain. Sipped neat from delicate porcelain cups as custom dictates, a cedar nut-enhanced Siberian winter wheat vodka called Mamont, poured from a bottle shaped as a mammoth’s tusk, is another horny beast. Less obvious vodka producer nations’ finest specimens also bear investigation, however: D1 English potato vodka; Chase Islay Whisky Cask Aged Vodka from Scotland's Laphroaig distillery, and American maize-based organic Prairie vodka, not least among them. Other bases are available across a range of cocktails and service is a sweet as Sauvelle Crafted; a creamy rich vanilla and cherry blossom French wheat vodka distilled in a microbrewery in Cognac at £119 per bottle. What snacks we try - smoked aubergine puree and skewers of yellow fin tuna and flaccid yellow courgette with a bland sour cream dip - don't have me rushing to add a trip to Tashkent to my bucket list, unfortunately. Might that be why, on a Thursday evening in busy Fitzrovia, Samarkand is as deserted as the Steppes in January?

33 Charlotte Street WT 3RR 3871 4969

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Fox Bar, Brixton

This new Brixton booze bunker is in Piano House, a creative hub in a converted Victorian warehouse. I remember this dive from my one previous visit when it was Substation South, owned by Erik Yu (Opium/ Burlock/ 68 and Boston). With my fashion show producers hat on, I'd hired its DJ, Martin Confusion, to develop a trip-hop soundtrack for a client - Katharine Hamnett, if my memory serves me well. What I do distinctly remember was rocking up at the club to discuss ideas, only to find his gig was a raunchy gay uniform night. Not much was achieved: well, you try concentrating, surrounded by 'squaddies' in the noddy, hard at it on manoeuvres that are far from Geneva conventional! Having been totally transformed (and doused in bleach, I trust), the sometime sex-pit now hosts Soho House’s latest whizz; a drinking den inspired by the old taverns of Chicago, in which city the same group’s original Fox Bar is based on traditional English taverns, I'm told. Confused? Here’s the 411. Fox Bar sits in a narrow arch next door to a branch of Soho House’s Chicken Shop roll-out. There’s barely room for thirty souls in what feels like a sanitised take on the sort of joint Frankie Machine - the fly by night hero of Chicago novelist Nelson Algren’s The Man with the Golden Arm - might have drunk at with his dissolute buds before graduating to injecting his veins with something a little stronger than Banana Penicillin, one of the drinks on a list worked up by Soho House’s global creative bar manager, Tom Kerr. Other classy £8 fixes (pun intended) that might have been less detrimental to Frankie’s health than his class A intake include Old Pal (a Rittenhouse rye Negroni), Southside Collins, Boulevardier and Nitro (espresso) Martini, the latter two on tap. Chuck in chicken bits and craft beers; Brixton’s baddest will be quickly hooked.

Piano House, 9 Brighton Terrace SW9 8DJ Facebook Fox-Bar-Brixton

Monday, 14 November 2016

Every Cloud, Hackney

The Manhattan Project, the cocktail consultants that recently made a splash at Hawaiian joint POND (before the restaurant's fortunes took a dive and its owners shut up shop), have taken the plunge, branching out on their own just off Hackney’s main drag, Mare Street. Head honcho Felix is all for “strong drinks, low lights and good times” at his sweet, wee pineapple-themed bar-ette where “creeps” are persona non grata he says. Every Cloud’s silver lining is a list of off-the-wall innovations from £8 such as a 'Champagne Daiquiri’ that contains no actual Champagne, preferring instead lab-created acidic fizz that tastes like the real thing to some.  A gin, strawberry and Bahamian bitter bark spirit twist on a classic Negroni is described as “somewhere between vanilla Coke and cough syrup” which sounds a bit too close for comfort to my tweenage attempts at cocktail-making when Night Nurse, Vimto and a miniature of vodka nicked from the local Co-Opleft me puking into the porcelain. Equally off the wall Irish poitín potion, Blue Bán Group, is touted as the liquid equivalent of Violet Beauregard, the obnoxious brat in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory who is juiced by oompa loompas after she morphs into a giant blueberry. Blimey!

11 Morning Lane E9 6ND 07843 613628  

Three Sheets, Dalston

Set up by Mancunian brothers Noel and Max Venning, the latter a protégé of Tony Conigliaro, this austerely decorated, pint-sized lounge reminds me of Edward Hopper’s 1942 oil, Nighthawks. A few stool pigeons and and a couple of love birds are all it takes to fill the place. The bros’ well-judged drinks rely on the contents of a solitary shelve’s dialled-down supply. Short but long on interesting ideas, the cocktail list is refreshed each month according to season. Autumn's glory ( £8) comes in the shape of lightly floral Foraged Martini (pictured below): served wet with a tart edge, it calls for Beefeater gin, home-infused ‘leaf vermouth’ and a sprig of gypsophila. Other hits include a light take on classic gin job, French 75; the Vennings' recipe made with verjus, Moscato wine and orange flower carbonated and pre-batched. Pear And Pastis (it is what it says) is helped along by a slug of Reyka vodka and a hint of lemon. Plans B & C, should you be remotely interested, are a trio of Italian wines and Wiper and True IPA or Harbour Pils. The lovely local micro-bar is open in the daytime for coffee and cake or a hair of the dog should you have found yourself three sheets to the wind last night.

510b Kingsland Road E8 4AE

MNKY HSE, Mayfair

For a taste of the Mayfair lifestyle at a fraction of the cost, book a space in the bar in the bowels of MNKY HSE (BYO vowels) -  a ‘new breed of dining experience’ that heroes modern Latin American cuisine. Set to a FNKY MNKY soundtrack that gets a lot lot louder as the evening progresses, this  glossy gaff recalls the sort of early Noughties NYC nightspot Naomi Campbell, trailing paparazzi in her wake, might have plagued while the Sex and the City ladies, mainlining martinis, held a wake for yet another failed relationship. Dress as Naomi or Carrie's mucker Samantha's MUCH younger sisters; MNKY HSE is a catwalk already strutted by 'porn heiress' India Rose James; Pips Taylor; Weegee wailer Talia Storm; Kyle De Vole (Rita Ora's stylist, apparently); Henry Conway (a party fixture dubbed "Mince Charming" by a sometime mate of mine) and male mannequin Harvey Newton-Hadyon - the sort of fluttery young things drawn, as moths to a Vapona Strip, to Mayfair boîtes such as this. Model muddles and mixes on a South of the Border tip include a coffee martini - made, Jalisco-style, with Jaral de Berrio Mezcal, mole bitters, dark chocolate and rose dust - and a fine £13 passion fruit spume-layered Negroni manqué that calls for Mezcal Gin Joven. Ron Millonario XO Reserva Especial fix, MNKY Business (top left) - a subtle, smoky rum old fashioned - is flamboyantly produced from a glass flask shrouded in mist and much hot air from its maker about “the concept.” Another signature is called Taking The Pisco: cue Ace of Spades Gold Brut Champagne, for those (rappers, footballers, hedgies, pretentious pricks) happy to drop £850 a bottle or £1,450 on a magnum of bling-bauble bubbles. For those with more sense than money, house (Argentine) white is yours for more modest £26. Baltic blondes with Rylan Clark glow-in-the-dark teeth -  veneereal disease is sweeping London - will be relieved: tasty, teeny taco-ettes and fiddly fishy bites won’t interfere with the contours of a body-con black dress... but they may batter a bloke's Barclaycard. 

10 Dover Street W1S 4LQ 3870 4880

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Burlock, Marylebone

This new basement rum room -previously naff nightspot Noir -  across the street from Selfridges back door was set to be called The Plantation. But that was before pressure groups piped up: "Commemorate places where slaves suffered? How very dare Yu? That's 'Yu' as in Eric, the bar's personable egalitarian owner whose other joints include inscrutable Chinatown den, Opium, and 68 and Boston on Greek Street. In our prescriptive PC world, must we now also boycott Plantation rum? for that's the base for Burlock’s creamy, white, minty Grasshopper, one of various cracking Caribbean and Creole classic cocktails whose names are - purely by coincidence rather than by some dark design, I wager - equally controversial. Take 'Rum-Ember' The Maine; a Mezan XO rum twist on the 1930s whiskey classic whose unbastardised title references the sinking of a ship, the USS Maine, that proved to be the flashpoint for the Spanish-American War in which thousands perished. Or Canchanchara, a white rum antecedent of 20s gin job Bee’s Knees, a drink invented to fortify locals throughout Cuba's Ten Year War with Spain. Whatever! In Yu's darkened 30s Havana parlour whose decor was presumably bought on E-Bay from Fidel Castro’s granny, lock, stock and ahem, 'plantation' shutters (as flogged in the Mail on Sunday magazine, so utterly PC clearly) punters, oblivious to such PC considerations, dive in to fishbowls and jiggle to fat funky beats played by DJs who will doubtless risk having that po-faced Dame, Chami Chakrabarti, and pontificating left-wing puffball Diane Abbott down on them like a ton of bricks if they so much as reach for a track by 70s soul brothers, Slave.

31 Duke Street W1U 1LG 7935 3303

Friday, 3 June 2016

Smith and Whistle, Mayfair

Here’s yet another bar with yet another tall tale to tell about heroes and villains a twee theme that’s much more imaginatively executed at the likes of Evans & Peel, Mr. Fogg's and Uncle Seymour’s Parlour than at this glitzy, soulless take on a Jazz Age cocktail lounge. Apparently, inspired by fictitious 1920s sleuth Smith - a poor man’s Poirot - and gentleman/ vagabond Whistle, it’s the first of the hotel’s public spaces to be refurbished. Let’s hope owners Starwood/ Sheraton Hotels make a better fist of the potentially glorious Palm Court Bar than they have here. Bar food includes devilled whitebait; pork brawn and piccalilli and beer-battered fish fingers, chips and mushy peas (£10.50). Chapel Down vineyard’s Curious Brew ales on tap, plus a selection of good Scottish beers, will give tourists a flavour of Britain’s craft ale revolution. Jotted down on gumshoe Smith’s leather-bound notepad, £10 cocktails include Mayfair Mystery (Absolut, Jägermeister, Sezchuan pepper honey, elderflower and chilli). Apparently, Smith and Whistle would occasionally meet up here on the sly and trade tip-offs. With 1920s gin, lemon and honey classic, Bee’s Knees, incorrectly listed as 'tequila, goats cheese, pork crackling syrup and plum wine’  it looks like the crim' gave the cop a bum steer! Maybe it should be renamed Smith & Wesson, a reference to the weapon used to put the joker that dreamed up this trite tosh out of his misery.
The Park Lane Hotel Piccadilly W1J 7BX

Sunday, 10 April 2016

By Appointment Only, Liverpool Street

Dwarfed by Bishopsgate's rampaging glass towers, all ornate Ottoman tiling and Moorish styling with additional help from Russell Sage Studios, I'm told, By Appointment Only is set in a rare beauty I'm keen to revisit - The Victorian Bath House. Previously a nightclub, after a prolonged dry spell, the heavenly hammam has reopened as a bar-cum-events space. Tonight, the only soaks in evidence are fellow hooch Hoovers, ministered to by a liveried 'butler' in a make-believe Belle Époque gentlemen's club. It's a hackneyed theme that's elswhere been done well - at Mr. Fogg's of Mayfair - and badly... at far too many others... like the ludicrous lair that was House of Wolf on Islington's Upper Street. I invite a PR/ event organiser chum along for an evening that should be more full of Eastern promise than a box of Fry's Turkish Delight. On arrival, we're offered complimentary coupes of fancy fizz. Nice touch. Sadly, it's as watery and flat as The Fens and is to Champagne, what some hopeless howler on Britain's Got F***-All Talent,  is to Aretha Franklin. Alarm bells ring. Unfazed, our butler scuttles off and reappears with what I take to be Prosecco. "Are you ready for your cocktail adventure?' he beams. We are. Problem is, nothing on a fanciful list floats our boats. Peanut butter rum and berry juice mix? Nope! Wash, Rinse Repeat? Sounds like a root canal session at the dentist's. Classic Shambles? (I quote) 'A couple of apple pies from our neighbours at McDonalds, dropped into a vat of Somerset Brandy.' Well, would YOU? Nothing is winking at me. I'll have to go off menu.

Me: "Might I try your home-infused quince and blue cheese gin... in a dry martini, please?" 
Butler: "urm....gin in a martini glass? I don't think we can do that. But we can make you a classic cocktail if you prefer." 
Me (discombobulated): "What could be more classic than a classic gin martini?"
Butler: "Vodka and lemonade? Whisky and Coke?"

Well that's sure to stretch those 'expert mixologists' here to 'delight your palate with largesse and liberation' (sic). At their lightly stocked, panto set bar that recalls a display fixture at the Cowdenbeath Co-Op circa the Coronation and rationing books, the experts are at work. PR pal settles for rosemary and lavender-infused gin and tonic. Poured from a Tanqueray bottle, served With Fever-Tree tonic water, it's overpoweringly perfumed and strident on the nose.

 "I'd rather drink gin and Vim!" she grimaces. 

I opt for the 'modern sophistication' that is the STFH - aka 'Salted Toffee From Hipflask' (sic). Pre-made, served from a hot water bottle-sized silver flask, it is presented with something lumpy, brown and wrinkly on a glass plate (pictured).  

"Eeew! That looks like a specimen diseased adenoid" announces my date just as I'm on the point of popping into my gob what turns out to be a dried date, the ideal partner to my drink..apparently. Having spent the previous two hours sampling great single malt cocktails at excellent nearby new whisky bar, Black Rock, this recherché rinse is, to put it mildly, a bit of a let-down. To my tastes, STFH is Simply Too F****** Horrid for words. But I'll try. Imagine scotch infused with Werther's Originals and the melted contents of the not-so-select selection box your great-auntie Marjorie gave you for Christmas 1969! 'So good, it's probably illegal' trumpets the menu. 'Should be!' tut tuts date reaching for her coat. Not keen to prolong our 'by appointment' disappointment at The Bath House, she's after an early bath at home. The following day, I scrutinise the menu's florid small print. "All our house infusions are presided over by Mr. PJ Hobbs who tinkers and plays as our 'Booze Mechanic'". On last night's showing, they might as well have hired Kevin Webster, Coronation Street's resident boozy mechanic. Unless new owners Camm and Hooper - the brains also behind Tanner and Co of Bermondsey Street - up their game dramatically, I won't be diving in again any time soon.

7 Bishopsgate EC2M 3TJ  3813 7114

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

K Bar at The Kensington, South Kensington

It may be of London’s most desirable districts (unless Dalston is your natural home) but South Kensington is curiously low on swanky hotel lounges with sufficient clout to pull in well-heeled cosmopolitan locals. Opulently revamped, the rebranded K Bar at the SW7 flagship of Irish hoteliers, The Doyle Collection, fills the void. All honey tone woods, copper shimmer, grouse moor greens and divine art deco bronze doors - salvaged from Dublin’s GPO and riddled with bullet marks from the 1916 Easter Uprising according to one of the bar's Blarney-kissed boys' spiel - K Bar is a luxe looker, high on charm, comfort and cracking cocktails. Highlights include a Trois Rivières sweet daiquiri (£10) and a Knob Creek rye, Cherry Heering and Applejack-based tribute to the Singapore Sling. Calvados and rhubarb bitters inform K Bar’s twist on a classic Champagne Cocktail. Créme Brûlée Martini is sheer liquid sin. Order wine from £5.50 with suitably Kensington snacks from the hotel's grown-up restaurant, adjacent and, held hostage by emerald plush upholstery, stay for ‘classic or healthy’ afternoon tea served until 5pm. 
109 - 113 Queen’s Gate SW7 5LT 7589 6300

Gallery Bar at Ace Hotel, Shoreditch

OFF übercool Ace Hotel’s vlogger-magnet lobby - ‘a place to congregate, socialise, work or wind down’ (while you wait to be spotted by an Italian photographer casting the next big budget  campaign to feature Made in Londra 'real people') your inner hipster will gravitate towards its Gallery Bar; a post-nuclear cubbyhole in which to spend ‘a long afternoon of lap-topping', sipping cocktails until well past midnight and ‘noshing snacks.’ Buttermilk fried chicken burger, and crispy fried cauliflower are the sort of stomach liners to load up on before ripping into a 100-strong whisky range that ain't for wusses that buy into Davy Boy Beckham-for-hire's Haig-Club nonsense. Scandinavian, Indian, Japanese and Australian single malts and Taiwanese cask strength rarities take on the tartan army; Tomatin 30 one among  a selection of Scotland’s finest on a list that’s also big on premium gin, rum and Tequila. ‘Rogue afternoon’ drinks involve Aussie Regal Rogue vermouth served (white) with yellow Chartreuse and tonic, say, at £6.50. A seasonally evolving selection of after-dark vamps might include Sucker Punch (Bulleit, Benedictine, lemon, pineapple and kombucha tea) or Simply Red (pictured),  a Glenmorangie and balsamic strawberry old fashioned that’s decidedly more current than Mike Hucknall. And this being Ace Hotel, you're a sashay away from another ace spot with a decent bar: Hoi Polloi, David Waddington's 1950's American-style dining room that is as sleek and well put-together as Eve Marie-Saint and as camp as Cary Grant in North By Northwest.

100 Shoreditch High Street E1 6JQ 7613 9800 

Friday, 11 March 2016

The Prince Alfred, Little Venice

When its original elaborate plasterwork ceiling caved in, the historic Alfred’s Grade II listed status obliged it be painstakingly restored. Taking this misfortune as their cue, owners Young’s treated their 160-year-old working museum to a major refurbishment. This, the handsomest of pub’s former Formosa Dining Room has been transformed into a convivial haute Victorian English brasserie; its coal cellars imaginatively transformed into plushly appointed vaults for cosy private dining. Fluted iron columns; Venetian windows; frosted glass a gogo; stunning ornate tiles; a dramatic mahogany horseshoe bar; Lilliputian saloons; snob screens; dentilled cornices: there’s so much to admire at this bobby dazzler of a boozer, the food and drink almost plays second fiddle. Order Young’s and Camden ales on draught; Beavertown and Hammerton among the craft bottled beers; sloe gin negroni, Chivas sour, spritzes and old fashioneds, and familiar wine appellations from £20 - £40. Sandwiches and salads are available during the day along with sharing boards, trad bar snacks and a classic British menu that’s served until late in the evening. A typical meal might start with ham hock, wild mushroom and truffle terrine or a hearty winter soup followed by  crabmeat-encrusted salmon in a mussel broth, beef and bone marrow pie with buttered greens, or kale, squash, fig and goat’s curd and quinoa salad and sticky toffee pudding or a peach, berries and lemon and coriander meringue mess to finish. Rock up for Sunday roast but be sure to book ahead!
5A Formosa Street W9 1EE  7286 3287 

From my review for

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Leman Street Tavern, Aldgate

In what was once the colourful heart of the old Jewish East End, the pogrom continues unchecked. Championed by a megalomaniac Mayor who has the interests of Brexit Boris, not London or Britain, at the heart of his cold calculating heart; Goodman’s Fields is yet another shining example of the shiny boxy bland ghettoes to greed that are disfiguring our city, robbing it of all originality and charm. At the entrance to this new 'luxury' slum, Geronimo Inns has splashed out a tidy sum on its latest trough and watering hole, Leman Street Tavern. The same £1.5 million would just about buy a banker a pad here - although possibly not one with a view of the equine civic 'art' that announces it. This is a blessing in disguise: two bronze stallions frolicking in a stream are the sort of trashy 70s sculptures only Beverley from Abigail's Party or deranged deceased dictators, the Caesescus, would brook in their front yard's brook. Geronimo Inns' ('a group of proper pubs with an eye for the different and the delicious’) newbie is comfy, colourful and serviceable… but for ‘different’ read 'design-by-numbers after various punchier postmodern bar-brasserie-gastropubs.' ‘Delicious’? That'll be Macon-Lugny on a list that largely sits south of £30 and offers two dozen choices by the glass for sunny day stragglers drawn to a generic pavement terrace  onto a chronically congested A-road. Fill up on bar snacks of black pudding sausage roll, baked Camembert with buttered soldiers, and potato and leek hotpot. Dine on crab gratin followed by pork faggot, greens and mash, with fried milk and poached rhubarb for afters at  LST, the sort of mid-market one-size-fits-all gaff I imagine morning TV Haribore eye candy Susanna Reid might fancy. Me? I'm off to grittier gaffs on nearby polyglot Brick Lane...before the Curse of the Developer destroys it too. 
Goodman’s Fields, Leman Street, E1 8EY 3437 

Paper, Dress, Vintage: Hackney

In Hackney, rummage for 60s frocks, 50s fun furs, flouncy frilly blouses, fawn felt fedoras and fuchsia feather boas and - since there's no way you're ever going to squeeze into those hot heliotrope Biba hot-pants circa Thin Lizzy you just spotted; you might as well squeeze in afternoon tea and cake served on colourful mismatched china that last saw action back in the Black and White Minstrels' black and white telly days. Anytime I revisit retro threads, I'm struck by how skinny we were back in the day before my one-time 27-inch waist was hit by rampant inflation. By night, at this Second-Hand Rose's delight  - recently relocated from Shoreditch - pull on your glad-rags as a funky preloved clothes shop transforms into a bar and social open until 1am at weekends. Her dress rails tidied away, stylish owner Hannah serves classic pre-batched gin, rum, whiskey and vodka cocktails courtesy of Bethnal Green bar, Craft Cocktail Co, as well as a selection of beers by Crate, Hackney and Pressure Drop. Served by a second (microscopic) bar, the upstairs men’s department morphs seamlessly into a live lounge. A small stage hosts rockabilly, soul, blues and swing artistes when the room is not otherwise given over to jive classes, comedy, burlesque, cabaret and drawing classes. There’s even a wee garden in which to model the King's Road dolly bird @ Chelsea Girl halter-dress, serape, sun hat and cats eye shades Ms Moss would kill for. Like serial party animal Kate, Paper, Dress, Vintage has got the London Look.

352A Mare Street E8 1HR 8510 0520