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Date place

Blog, Date Spot, Drink, Eat, London, Stay

Henrietta Hotel, Covent Garden

June 20, 2017
The Henrietta, Covent Garden

I’ve been to the Henrietta Hotel twice in 24 hours.  In my defence, it’s a stone’s throw from my office, so easy to get excited about.  Yesterday for drinks, today for a nosey around the rooms.  Because yes, I am a hotel geek and I do like to do things like that on my lunch break.

Founded by the Experimental Group guys (think the Experimental Cocktail Chinatown, but they also own lots of hip venues in Paris, New York & Ibiza), the Henrietta is many things.  Firstly it is a small, luxury hotel, with 18 rather beautiful rooms.  With heavy Art Deco influences and pastel colours, each room is unique, from the pretty headboards to brass lamps and mirrors in all different shapes and sizes.   Many of the bathrooms have large baths and all have fluffy branded robes and towels.

The Henrietta, Covent GardenThe Henrietta, Covent Garden

The Henrietta has also got a great bar.  Last night, post excellent dinner at Frenchie (which I would recommend to all who would fork out a casual £38 on lamb), I dragged my friend there for cocktails.  We were there long enough for the bill to be fairly substantial (be warned).  The cocktail menu is a little unusual, as I suppose you would expect from these guys.  I wasn’t sure about my Palomar cocktail (tequila based but perhaps with a touch too much salt) but the vibe was good, and I love the design of the place.  There is also a mezzanine level with another bar and more tables.

The Henrietta, Covent GardenThe Henrietta, Covent Garden

Perhaps the most talked about aspect of the Henrietta is its restaurant, with the food being by the one & only Ollie Dabbous (of Dabbous fame).  I sent my colleague there for lunch yesterday (come to think of it I really have been giving this place a lot of love) and he said the food was excellent.

The Henrietta, Covent GardenThe Henrietta, Covent Garden

And so today, having not seen any of the rooms, I popped by and was shown around.  Sadly their two suites were booked, as I would have loved to have seen the views from their terrace.  But I saw two rooms: their smallest Covent Garden room (super cosy, under the eaves of the house, not for giants) and the Henrietta room (much more spacious, fabulous bed).

The Henrietta, Covent GardenThe Henrietta, Covent Garden

All in all it’s good to see Covent Garden has a new, hip hotel, and I’m sure I’ll be stopping by regularly for food and booze, and maybe even a snooze..!

The Henrietta

14-15 Henrietta St,

London WC2E 8QH

Blog, Date Spot, Eat, London

The Ninth, Fitzrovia

September 5, 2016
The Ninth, Fitzrovia

It might seem like a bit of a cheat writing a blog about a restaurant where I’ve only had pudding*.  But this pudding is so good it deserves its own blog.  Even though I had it 3 weeks ago I cannot stop thinking about it.  I’m plotting when to return.

Let’s rewind.  Having had a delicious dinner at Bao Fitzrovia, which fully lived up to expectations, I decided I wanted proper dessert and a proper (large) glass of wine.  Being right by Charlotte street we were in no better area to find both items, and so we strolled along until we got to the Ninth.  I’d read good things about this place, no less regarding its attractive Japanese celeb chef Jun Tanaka, but mainly about the food.  It also, like most Charlotte Street restaurants (another reason why I love it so) has a little terrace outside, with, in our case, empty tables.

The staff were ever so charming and more than happy for us to enjoy dessert and wine outside.  The dessert menu had some very appealing options and I was almost tempted to go for the Tarte Tatin.   But the (lovely) waiter insisted I try their famous ‘Pain Perdu’, which sounded like my sort of thing.  Best decision ever.

The Ninth, Fitzrovia

It’s really rather pleasant sitting on their terrace with the heaters on, watching Charlotte Street go by, sipping a good glass of French (obvi) wine.  But life got just that little bit better when a loaf of beautifully caramelised French toast was placed in front of me.  With wonderful vanilla ice cream.  The loaf was soft and warm on the inside, but with a slight caramel crunch on the outside.  It’s quite a lot of pudding, but scary how quickly and easily that vanished (my Instagram photo below).  Don’t get one to share, it’s too good for that.  And while a portion that size might leave you feeling sick, it wasn’t overly sweet so I felt just fine afterwards (if slightly on a sugar high).

The Ninth, Fitzrovia

The great thing is that since I didn’t actually have dinner there, I have an excuse to go back (the menu looks good, and prices reasonable).  Inside was also appealing, dimly lit, buzzing without being noisy, the ideal date place perhaps.

If the rest of the menu is anything like the Pain Perdu, then it will certainly be a dinner to remember.

**Since writing this blog I actually went back for lunch in the sun with my father.  We enjoyed two of their delicious salads/ceviche and their oxtail croquettes which were delicious.  To finish, we had the Pain Perdu, of course!  Couldn’t recommend this place highly enough.

The Ninth, Fitzrovia

The Ninth

22 Charlotte Street

Fitzrovia

Photo credit: The Ninth

Blog, Date Spot, Eat, London

Oklava, Shoreditch

August 15, 2016
Oklava, Shoreditch

While Istanbul and in fact, Turkey in general, are massively struggling at the moment, Turkish food in London seems to be flourishing.

The very popular Babaji Pide opened in 2015 (another one of Alan Yau’s venture), and then Le Bab (serving gourmet kebabs – what’s not to like) opened earlier this year to rave reviews.

But perhaps the most talked about opening has to be Oklava (modern Turkish food), by Selim Kiazin – a young, hungry and exceptionally talented Turkish chef.  She wowed throughout her stint at Carousel, and was so loved that she set up on her own in a quiet Shoreditch side street.

Oklava, Shoreditch

The result is rather satisfactory.  It is a lovely little restaurant, with a busy open kitchen (and a kitchen counter to watch the chefs at work), large windows which open widely and a few seats outside too.

We arrived early and grabbed some of the outside seats to enjoy the warm Friday evening (and later moved inside to their kitchen counter).  I tried their sumac and pomegranate Martini – am always a fan of a vodka cocktail –  especially if they keep it quite simple.  Sumac might not be your cocktail ingredient of choice, but it’s actually quite sweet and worked really well.  We then moved onto the wine – all Turkish – which originally we (mainly Rob) were sceptical about.  Until we tried the wine the lovely waitress recommended, and that shut us up.

Oklava, Shoreditch

The menu is quite succinct, with everything sounding as mouth-watering as the dishes looked as they were prepared in front of us.  A must try is of course their ‘pide’ (flat bread), prepared in their special wood fire.  We went for the ‘traditional’ lamb one (Lahmacun), but their potato, leek, mozzarella, tulum cheese and fresh truffle one looked incredible too.

Oklava, Shoreditch

Our culinary journey here started with fresh Baharat bread and date butter – superb.  They were followed by whipped feta and pumpkin crostinis which were slightly disappointing, not taste-wise, but size-wise (and at £2.50 a pop, not worth it in my opinion). The courgette, feta and mint fritters came next, and while they also looked quite small, they were wonderfully filling and one of my favourite bites of the night.

Oklava, Shoreditch

After the pide we were suddenly feeling quite full, but then came Rob’s beef short rib which was melt in the mouth delicious, followed by my pomegranate glazed lamb breast with yoghurt. Both excellent.

Oklava, Shoreditch

In a city where restaurants are competing for attention, to properly ‘stand out’, Oklava does.  The price can add up (as tends to be the case with sharing plates) but it is totally worth it.

Oklava

74 Luke St,

London EC2A 4PY

Photo credit: Oklava (and the Instagram ones are mine)

Blog, Date Spot, Drink, London

Oriole, Farringdon

August 14, 2016
Oriole, Farringdon

Unfortunately for us, we chose possibly one of the warmest, sunniest Friday early evenings for a drink at Oriole.  While everyone was basking in the London sun on heaving terraces, we were under ground (under Smithfield), very much out of the sunshine, sipping cocktails.  This is clearly a night time haunt, preferably in the winter, when you don’t feel guilty for being inside.  And while we were quietly wishing we were outside, it didn’t take away from how stunning this bar really is.

Oriole, FarringdonOriole, Farringdon

I totally adored the interiors, all green leather banquettes, leafy wall paper, with a beautiful bar.  It screams exotic, sexy, alluring.  It is the ultimate date place, and if you like jazz, then all the better but they have live music performances seven nights a week.  It is the sister property of the award-winning Nightjar bar (which is always fully booked), and it’s gone for a similar vibe.  Booking a table is highly recommended (unless it’s a 30 degree Friday evening..).

Oriole, FarringdonOriole, Farringdon

The cocktails are sublime, even if the list is somewhat overwhelming.  Divided into Old World, New World and The Orient, these are not your run of the mill cocktails.  They are concocted with thought, and care, and the result is wonderful.   I opted for the Karachi Sour (Cana Brava Rum, sweet ume paste, yellow courgette, lemon and fresh sea herbs), leaning, as always, towards a fresh and citrusy drink.  It was also served in the prettiest glass (shaped as a fish).  Rob had an ‘Anchor Steam’ beer from California, which he really enjoyed.

Oriole, FarringdonOriole, Farringdon

They also had a very good food menu, and we really enjoyed an Asian version of padron peppers, and the most moorish black truffle croquettes.

We left after a drink, in search of sunnier places, however I loved this place and will definitely return when it’s raining outside.

Oriole

East Poultry Avenue,

London Central Markets,

London, EC1A 9LH

Photo credit: Oriole

Blog, Croatia

DiVino, Hvar – EAT

August 13, 2016
Divino, Hvar

Croatia is not known for it’s food, but Hvar is spoilt for choice.  While Dalmatino seems to be everyone’s favourite, DiVino gave it a run for its money.  For one, DiVino’s location, setting and view is much better than Dalmatino.  Here you can really enjoy the sunset, with breathtaking views of the Pakleni Islands and the sea.  Their terrace is large and comfortable but inside is nice too if it gets a little chilly.

Divino, Hvar

This really is the place to have sea food.  While some say the food is a bit pricey here, I was not disappointed with the excellent (and massive) tuna steak I had.  It was perfectly cooked, still quite raw in the middle and unbelievably fresh.   They served it with humus and swiss chard, so it was light but still filling.   The prawn risotto was also delicious, and beautifully presented (like all the food I saw come past).

Divino, HvarDivino, Hvar

This is a very romantic spot, and a great date place.  While it’s very close to Carpe Diem Lounge Bar, it’s a far cry from the noisier and more touristy dinner spots along the marina.   Their wine list was also excellent.  Annoyingly I can’t remember what the red wine was we drank here and enjoyed so much (and then asked for at every other restaurant we ate), but it was a local Croatian wine (which are surprisingly good).

If you’re looking for a break from partying at Hula Hula and Carpe Diem, then DiVino is the place to come to for a more sophisticated, refined evening.

Divino

Put križa 1, 21450,

Hvar

Blog, Date Spot, Drink, Eat, London

Restaurant Ours, South Kensington

July 10, 2016
Restaurant Ours, South Kensington

There are certain restaurants which live up to the hype, and some which don’t.  To be fair, Restaurant Ours hasn’t had much time to get hyped up (it’s fairly new) – but with a celebrity launch party and being the sister restaurant to Michelin star (and very much liked) Restaurant Story, let’s just say I had high expectations for Tom Sellers’ new venture.

It started well.  I tried booking a table for a Friday night on a Wednesday, was promptly told they were full (fair enough) and was told I would be put on a waiting list.  Then Friday came and Brexit happened (that’s not the good part) and I thought I’d call again to see if there had been any cancellations.  And luck had it, there had been a cancellation, and the table was mine at 7:30pm.

I thought I’d take my Dad to treat him.  But then walked in and realised pretty quickly this was not really his ‘scene’.  There’s no denying the place looks good – it’s taken over the impressive space which used to be the Pan-Asian restaurant Collection – and so everything, from the Japanese style walk way to the olive trees mid-restaurant, to the rest of the décor, is rather beautiful.  But then you get the super loud music, which makes it feel like you’re in some sort of ‘lounge bar’ (to be fair, there is a cocktail area upstairs to which the music is more suited), rather than an exclusive restaurant.  I didn’t have the guts to ask them to turn it down, I knew what the response would be.

Restaurant Ours, South KensingtonRestaurant Ours, South Kensington

Don’t get me wrong, I think this would be the ideal place for a weekend cocktail.  It’s fun and it’s great for people watching.  David Schwimmer came and sat next to us (I clarify: not with us), and it seems to be popular with girls who don’t really feel like wearing any clothes at all (much to my father’s amazement).  The clientele are a complete mixture of local rahs, Euro trash, semi celebs and high end escort girls.  Entertaining, there’s no denying that.

I also couldn’t really fault the food.  It was good, but not outstanding.  The (purple) vichy carrots were the only real let down.  The scallop (£12) and tuna for starters were delicious, but the portions so minute it was gone in seconds.  I think they had literally put one scallop on my plate and sliced it as thinly as possible to make it look like an actual portion.  My salmon for mains was good, as was my father’s lamb.  I was most excited about ‘Our’ chips, with pecorino and fois gras.  They were most definitely edible, but, like the rest of the menu, not memorable.

Restaurant Ours, South KensingtonRestaurant Ours, South KensingtonRestaurant Ours, South KensingtonRestaurant Ours, South Kensington

So now you’re probably wondering what’s so wrong with this place?  Sadly, the most important thing about a restaurant: the service.  I noticed the minute we arrived how many staff they had, and at first I was impressed.  Then I quickly noticed how inefficient and incompetent the staff actually were (and their uniforms are exceptionally bad too). When you’re at a good restaurant you usually have one or two people serving your table.  Here we had – no joke, I counted – 8 people.  They were all perfectly sweet and well-meaning but were also pretty useless.  One couldn’t open a bottle of wine, so my father did it.  The other didn’t know what a ‘carpaccio’ was.  Another didn’t speak any English at all really.  There was no communication or coordination between the staff.  It was a big mess.

Such a shame.  Perhaps if they sorted this the place would be worth the (extremely expensive) bill.  But, apart from perhaps a fun cocktail on a Friday night, I won’t be running back here any time soon.

Restaurant Ours

264 Brompton Road

Blog, Date Spot, Drink, London

The Victorian Bath House, City of London

April 21, 2016
The Victorian Bath House, City of London

It’s not often that you find a hidden cocktail bar in a churchyard, let alone in the City of London.  But London is full of surprises, as is this new venue from Camm & Hoopers (known for Tanner & Co, and various other event spaces in the City).  If I hadn’t googled images, I would never have found this wonderful little bar.

The Victorian Bath House, City of London

Why did I like it?  Firstly, you can book a table.  Ideal.  There’s nothing worse than being turned away from a bar on a Friday night.  It is therefore the perfect date place, and great to combine with dinner at the new Pitt Cue around the corner, or ‘posh fish & chips’ at Des McDonald’s The Fish & Chip shop, or, if you get a table, fantastic Thai food at the newly opened Som Saa.  It’s all happening in and around the City these day.

The Victorian Bath House, City of London

Secondly, the interiors are quite spectacular, and unexpected.  It feels like you’ve walked into Alhambra (a slightly kitsch version perhaps!).  It’s dark and hushed, but not in a sterile way.  There’s a lot to look at – both decor and people wise.  The cocktail menu is quite unusual, with a number of quite over-complicated sounding cocktails, and lots of different versions of G&Ts.  I had the lavender and rosemary one which was delicious.

The Victorian Bath House, City of London

They also have a lovely terrace, which will be ideal for post work drinks in the summer.  I love the contrast between the Grade II listed building, and the modern, tall glass skyscrapers it is surrounded by.   You can even rent out the whole space for what would certainly be a dinner to remember.

The Victorian Bath House

7 – 8 Bishopsgate

London EC2M 3TJ

Photo credit: The Victorian Bath House

Amsterdam, Blog, Drink, The Netherlands

Tales & Spirits, Amsterdam

April 11, 2016
Tales & Spirits, Amsterdam

It’s no surprise this place is always busy.  We were nearly turned away on a Tuesday evening as they don’t allow people to stand, you must have a table.   So while the bar will be full, it will never be heaving, or too noisy.  It is the ultimate date place.  Dim lights, an excellent, inventive cocktail menu and a romantic ambience.

Tales & Spirits, Amsterdam

Upstairs they have a restaurant too, which I’ve heard good things about.

This is one of my favourite bars in Amsterdam, along with Hiding in Plain Sight (but Tales & Sprits has a better location).

Tales & Sprits

Lijnbaanssteeg 5-7
1012 TE Amsterdam

Blog, Drink, London

The Blind Pig – Soho’s slickest cocktail bar

November 7, 2015
Blind Pig, Soho

This bar is always full.  Which is impressive considering that it isn’t particularly obvious from street level that it even exists (bar the blindfolded pig door knocker).  Then again, it isn’t perhaps that surprising, since it’s part of (and above) Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House (one of my favourite restaurants in London).

Still, it’s taken me a number of years to finally have a drink here.  I’ve been turned away a couple of times (‘or you can wait for 20 – 30 minutes, madam’ – no thanks), but late one recent Saturday evening we managed to get two places by the bar.  Which is fun because you can see the cocktail shakers hard at work, and observe the mad skills they have.

Blind Pig, SohoBlind Pig, Soho

I’d admittedly had quite a few drinks already by the time we had our first cocktail here.  But damn they’re good.   I had the ‘Ginger Spice’, a vodka cocktail with ginger juice, carrot, lemon and honey (it’s funny how I still try and convince myself that adding some kind of vegetable to my drink justifies the quantity of sugar that it accompanies).  Rob had a Negroni.  We had fun chatting to one of the bar men, and I tried to persuade him to add ‘Skinny Bitch’ (vodka, soda and fresh lime) to the cocktail list (he made us the best one I’ve had).

Blind Pig, SohoBlind Pig, Soho

The Blind Pig is a dimly-lit, seductive bar, where the cocktails are inventive and delicious and where the upbeat vibe is infectious.  It is definitely worth the wait.  And if you get hungry, the delightful Social Eating House is just a flight of stairs away.

The Bling Pig

58 Poland St,

London W1F 7NS

Photo credit: The Blind Pig

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