The last few days saw the opening of Pop Brixton, a new shipping container space housing bars, restaurants and event space nestled behind the station on Pope’s Road.
The revamped Albany on Great Portland Street is definitely a pub of two halves. The street level bar is all newly decked out in blues and greys with huge chandeliers, and has a relaxing vibe with lots of after-work types enjoying one of the rotating guest beers on offer.
Despite getting slightly confused by the layout of West Smithfield (as usual) I had a really lovely evening in Cellar Gascon a few nights ago, and must recommend it to anyone in the area looking for a sophisticated tipple and Michelin quality snacks.
This is a mini-post just to highlight somewhere good – Central & Co on Great Marlborough Street is a pleasant surprise I’ve discovered since beginning a new job on Carnaby Street 30 seconds down the road. You can’t really get more central so it’s a good spot for meeting people then wondering off around Soho.
You may or may not be aware that it’s currently London’s first ever Pisco Sour Week, a city-wide celebration of (arguably) Peru’s most delectable export. The week-long festival follows in the footsteps of the National Pisco Sour day, which is celebrated throughout Peru on the first Saturday of February.
For the uninitiated, Pisco is a clear, unaged Peruvian brandy made from grapes, and the classic Pisco Sour combines it with lime, sugar, egg white and bitters. It was first developed in Lima in the early 1920s as an alternative to the classic Whisky Sour, and has since swept the US and Europe with its tangy, frothy charms and is gaining popularity in spades – Soho’s Chotto Matte makes upwards of 500 of them per week, eclipsing mojito sales.
I headed to Chotto Matte for a little lesson in all things Pisco, and indulged in a masterclass with excellent Bar Manager Fabiano. Draped in an authentic poncho, I whipped up the classic sour, as well as a pineapple and coconut version. My favourite was the Jasmine Tea Sour, made with home-infused jasmine Pisco, which had a subtle flowery aftertaste that still packed the punch of the original. They are all on the menu at Chotto Matte and should be sampled by everyone who enjoys a cocktail. You might as well order some snacks too – the Nikkei (Peruvian and Japanese) dishes are extremely tasty.
Also involved in the festivities is the beautiful Coya in Mayfair, and they’ve just launched their new Pisco flight to celebrate. Consisting of raspberry & thyme, rhubarb and Williams’s pear flavours, the selection is delicious and a great way to sample the various possible incarnations of the spirit. You can try the flight for £15. Combined with their heavenly food and service, Coya is the place for a slightly posher Pisco experience.
Lima Floral, Senor Ceviche, Tito’s, Tierra Peru and Pachamama are all part of the festival and you can pick up a wristband at any of them that will get you £5 Pisco Sours all week, so there’s no excuse to miss out.
Pisco Sour Week continues until Sunday 8th February, there’s no website but search #LPSW for more info.
*A version of this post first appeared on the fabulous Foodepedia
The newly-opened Skygarden is Europe’s highest garden space, located at the top of the Walkie Talkie building at 20 Fenchurch Street at the city end of London. It’s free to go up so why not?! We headed over on a cold but sunny Saturday to have a look, just in time for sunset. You have to book your slot on the website (below), and come at the specified time with photo ID, and either a printout or the original confirmation on your phone – not a screenshot as I discovered!
There’s tight security at the bottom; they don’t let you take any drinks or anything up and they wont let you store them at the bottom. We had a bottle of rum (for a party later – we don’t walk around town with bottles of spirits) that had to be dumped unfortunately!
There are two restaurants up there, one brasserie and one seafood, we didn’t go in either, but it seems like the best views are to be had from the bar and surrounding areas. You can walk around the perimeter of the 35th floor which offers stunning views of the Shard, Gherkin, Cheesegrater, Thames, Tower Bridge, and pretty much everything else in London – you really can see for miles, and it’s gorgeous. We were lucky with the timing and weather though, I imagine it’s less good if it’s chucking it down.
After wondering around for a while we sat down in the bar for some drinks – although it’s less a bar and more a collection of tables in the middle of an enormous greenhouse. My hangover limited me to a beer, which went down a treat and prices are standard pub prices which was a nice surprise.
If you’re after a romantic or cosy atmosphere it’s probably not the right place; it feels a bit like an airport and it’s pretty cold, but I imagine it will host some spectacular corporate events. In the meantime it’s great for people watching and the ideal place for a sunset aperitif if you’re heading on somewhere else afterwards.
For some reason I’ve always been a bit wary of pop-ups – what if there’s no-one there? Can I pay by card? What if it’s really good and then we can never go back? All unfounded, as proven this weekend with a little trip to Turntables, situated canalside next to Hackney Wick station.
It’s a big tented area with strings of lights, three bars (one is a hot bar with mulled wine and cider), multiple gorgeous food stands, DJs and plenty of oil drum bonfires to stave off frostbite. I made a beeline for The Cheese Truck (@CheeseTruckLDN) for a delicious melted cheese, rocket and chorizo sandwich – it was heaven, and I’ll definitely be trying to catch these guys again. Other choices included Bill or Beak (@BillorBeak) for juicy-looking duck and pork rolls, as well as hot dogs, jerk chicken and waffles.
Amaretto and whiskey sours from the cocktail bar were perfect, and at £8 the same as you’d pay in a bar. DJs were playing loud funky house, and there’s a dancefloor area to really get stuck in. They also throw in an afterparty at Shapes next door to carry onto into the next day – it’s a fab little venue that’s well worth a trip to Hackney.
There are two more weekends to get involved, it runs from 5pm Friday-Sunday until 20th December.
119 Wallis Rd, E9 5LN
We stumbled across Freud Bar whilst vaguely looking for a watering hole after a lovely dinner at The Ivy Market Grill earlier on. It’s nestled underground at the Tottenham Court road end of Shaftesbury Avenue. I’d heard of Freud somewhere before (I seem to have developed a form of Alzheimer’s since hitting 30 and can’t remember where) so headed down the rickety metal stairs into the basement bar. It was busy and lively with loud music and lots of couples and groups getting stuck in to a huge range of bright cocktails.
The cocktail menu is truly epic. They’re all stencilled onto huge boards above the bar, which is lined with people gaping up at it attempting to make an impossible decision. My own gaping had me decide on a negroni, and the other half went for a mojito.
While delicious, they’re not pretty or fancy, most things seem to come in a pint glass or tumbler, although I did see a couple of martini glasses around. It’s a high ceilinged industrial looking space with grey walls, bar and pretty much everything else, and antique paintings up – the place isn’t exactly pretty but it’s really lively, the staff are quick and smiley and everyone seemed pretty happy. They take cards (so annoying when bars don’t) and also do food and coffee etc in the daytime – one to add to the repertoire for sure.