Festive Hangouts You Might Not Have Heard Off in London This Christmas 2019

Don’t you just love Christmas? The lights, the decorations, the markets, the food. Nowhere else does Christmas quite like London.

Sure you know about Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and the ice rink at Somerset House, but have you heard of the winter carnival above Oxford Street or the winter lawn at the Tower Hotel? There are so many cool things you’ve not heard of, so here’s my guide to some of the cool winter hangout in London this Christmas 2019.

Christmas at Brixton Market

Does Brixton Market need any introduction? This diverse and vibrant market has been at the heart of the community for years and they’ve gotten into the Christmas spirit with an awesome lineup of food, drinks, and events. Expect festive performances, a New Orleans themed evening, and foodie pop-up the incredible Street Food Union and so much more. Easy to reach from Brixton tube station, check out how they do Christmas in this hip side of London.

📍 Brixton Village, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London SW9 8PS

Rooftop Brew Stop in Big Chill

Big Chill’s in King’s Cross is ringing in the festive season with their “Rooftop Brew Stop” that transports you to an alpine lodge. Indulge in gooey raclette burgers and plenty of festive cocktails and refreshing Camden Town Brewery beers to keep the festivities merry and bright. Casual and festive, “Rooftop Brew Stop” is the great spot to hang out with mates.

📍 Big Chill, King’s Cross, 257-259 Pentonville Road, London N1 9NL

Tower Hotel Winter Lawn

There aren’t many festive venues that can boast majestic views to their winter hangout, but that’s exactly what you get at The Tower Hotel Winner Lawn, and more. Mulled wine, festive cocktails, heartwarming wintry dishes from the Christmas menu with Tower Bridge in the backdrop will keep your festive evening going into the night. A little secret that not many Londoners know about.

📍 St Katharine’s Way, St Katharine’s & Wapping, London E1W 1LD

The Gun Gingerbread Chalet

To celebrate Christmas, The Gun has launched its very own winter interiors and menu in the form of a giant gingerbread house. Expect a delightful selection of festive drinks and food (the burger is a must) but makes this chalet it has resigned walls. Yep, really! You can take a piece of gingerbread of the walls and indulge. It’s cosy, festive and perfect for a private part.

The Lock Tavern

Nothing quite beats a roaring fire pit to warm you up. The Lock Tavern has opened up the Lock Lodge to celebrate and it’s bringing with it, a festive menu and plenty of mulled wine. The sweet roasted pork belly is one of the best finger food I tried and this being Camden, there’s plenty of the good stuff to keep things merry. There’s plenty of seating and if you find yourself unable to get close to the fire pit, the heated green seatings will keep you warm. Another secret hangout secreted in a pub to discover.

John Lewis & Partners: Rooftop Winter Carnival

I don’t know about you, but I love a venue that’s based around a theme, and one of London’s largest rooftop has been given an Americana makeover. Set high above the bustling streets of Oxford Circus, the John Lewis Winter Carnival rooftop, in collaboration with Phillips Hue and tech giants Google is brimming with things to do. Expect perfect Insta-moments from fairground horses to waltzer panels and bumper cars to pose in, to brightly-coloured smart lights powered by Philips Hue, plus Popcorn Shrimp, Loaded Fries, Corn Dogs, Turkey Drummers, Oreo Cheesecake Bites, Hot Toffee Apples and more to keep those bellies warm and full.

📍 John Lewis Rooftop, Oxford Street, Marylebone, London W1C 1DX

Aviary Igloo

There’s aren’t many igloo venues that can boast views across London’s skyline like City-based restaurant and bar, Aviary. In partnership with award-winning spirit distillery, Talisker, Aviary has recreated the winter wonderland of the Isle of Skye, inspired by its Scottish partner’s homeland. You can expect a bespoke cocktail menu featuring Talisker (obvs), and a specially curated menu to enjoy under the stars. As good as it gets for a fancy festive do.

📍 Royal London House, 10th Floor Montcalm, 22-25 Finsbury Square, London EC2A 1DX

Know any festive hangouts this Christmas that should be in this list? Let me know in the comments below or hit me on social media: Facebook or Twitter.

Best Monday Night Restaurant Deals in London

No one ever looks forward to Mondays. The dreary morning commute, the pouring rain, the packed tube train. All this before you even set foot in the office and sipped your morning coffee.

That’s why all over London, top restaurants are offering their finest to help us get through the worse day of the week.

From golden, crispy fried chicken to gigantic savoury pancakes, these top-notch Monday restaurant deals in London aren’t just delish, but light on the hard-earned cash too. Win-win!

Absurd Bird UK

What: Fried chicken; Spitalfields & Soho (London)

The deal: dishes with a drink included: £6.95

I like my KFC, but you know what’s even better? Absurd Bird’s bargain lunch time deal. At those prices, you’re getting your fried chicken fix and a whole lot more in a upscale establishment. And if you’re into cocktails, then get this – it’s 2-4-1 cocktails all day.

Offer is only available if you book in advance though, so get booking.

Blues Kitchen

What: BBQ; Brixton & Shoreditch

The deal: Two meals for the price of one.

You’d be hard pressed to find a better deal than this ‘Best Mate Monday’ deal at Blues Kitchen. Not only are the food top-notch, you’re treated to live music of blues, soul or funk every night at this hip Shoreditch bar and restaurant. An eclectic, industrial space serving comforting cajun-BBQ grub with a side of blues for half-the price? Tell a mate and see you there.

Like, Absurd Bird, you better book ahead.

Fire and Stone

What: Pizza; Covent Garden

The deal: 2 pizzas for £14 + plus more

I’m afraid those takeaway Dominoes just won’t do anymore after you’ve grabbed a slice of Covent Garden’s gourmet pizzas. Inspired by cities around the world, their creative toppings taste just as good as it sounds. Peking pizza with duck confit and hoisin sauce? Yes please. Grab a mate and enjoy gastronomic pizzas for just 7 quid.

You know the drill, book first before enjoying.

London Cocktail Club

What: Cocktails; various location

The deal: why spend a fiver on a tepid pint when you can spend that on a cocktail? The LCC have been serving revellers creative concoctions like the Brixton Riot since 2008 and now you can sip on some weird and fantastic cocktails for 50% at one the LCC’s many locations around London. It’s not for the refined, you can expect booming music, low-lit settings and swing lamps underneath the streets of London. This is the place for a night out, and if you ask me, the LCC Monument is the cream of the crops.

Drink up: https://londoncocktailclub.co.uk/

My Old Dutch

What: Pancakes; Holborn

The deal: Monday madness pancakes at £5.95

Pancakes aren’t just all sweet. Transforming how we see these delightful thin, flat cake of batter, My Old Dutch have been lifting Londoner’s gloomy Monday blues for years by offering outrageously brilliant pancakes for an equally brilliant deal.

No need to RSVP, but expect to queue for dinner.

Mac and Wild

What: Scottish, Steak; Soho

The deal: “Meaty Monday’s” 50% off Butchers Cuts, every Monday

I raved about just how good Mac and Wild was, and now us lucky lot can chomp down on some of the best steaks from Scotland for half the price. That beef chateaubriand was unbelievably good. And it gets better, if you’re a lucky cardholder of a Taste Card, you’re entitled to another 50%. Incredible food for so little money, it’s almost daylight robbery.

RSVP not required but highly recommended: https://www.macandwild.com/mac-wild-devonshire-square/meaty-mondays

Blacklock

What: Meat chops; City, Soho; Shoreditch

The deal: Butcher price Mondays

Located on the site of a former brothel bang in the middle of Soho and just a minute walk from the bright lights of the West End, Blacklock are offering big, quality chops at butcher prices. Butcher prices can vary and the quantity may be limited but notwithstanding this, all we need to know is that you’re still getting a good deal of chops at awesome prices. I highly recommend bringing a mate for this one. One person will not be able to handle the meat sweats alone here. Wash all that meat down with cocktails for a fiver. What’s not to love?

RSVP not required but recommended: https://theblacklock.com/menus/

Alcotraz – The Notorious Prison Themed Cocktail Bar – Is Opening in Covent Garden

🍸Quirky Bar 📍Covent Garden,

Quirky bars. Us Londoners love a quirky bar, don’t we? Well, today is our lucky day because the Capital is getting another one albeit as a three month pop-up

Alcotraz – the notorious prison-themed cocktail experience in Shoreditch have announced they’ll be opening a new location ‘Cell Block’ smack bang in the middle of Covent Garden as a three month pop-up from Friday 4th October 2019.

Taking place underneath Covent Garden in a speakeasy basement, the stakes couldn’t be higher and covertness is paramount when guests attempt to smuggle liquor past The Warden and into the hands of some of Alcotraz’s longest-serving inmates who will then transform the contraband liquor into delicious cocktails.  

It may have generated global headlines and courted controversy since it’s opening on Brick Lane in 2017, but there’s no denying how appeal to curious Londoners looking for a unique night out.  

This time, the infamous bar behind bar is taking this game of cat and mouse to new heights with a more immersive experience that begins before arriving. Guests – or rather, inmates – are given their own Alcotraz processing number and instructions to bring their liquor and covertly meet a cast of shady characters at the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Neal Street. Inmates then smuggle their own liquor into the experience in return for four cocktails.

Alcotraz Cell Block Six Eight can accommodate 40 inmates at a time, and will be serving cocktails behind bars using liquor that has been smuggled in past the guards. How’s that for quirky?

Deets:

Alcotraz Penitentiary: Cell Block Six Eight, 68a Neals Street, WC2H 9PA 

Keen to experience it? You might want to book ahead.

Soft Launch: 50% Off at Arabica, King’s Cross

Anyone else get excited as I do when I hear about a soft launch offer?

Borough Market’s favourite, Arabica, are opening a sister site in King’s Cross this October and to celebrate, us lucky Londoners are getting 50% off our food bill over its soft launch period from 25th-29th September.

The new site has an almost entirely new menu, packed with Middle-Eastern inspired flavours (complemented by a handful of the best-loved dishes from Borough) The drinks list will include eight wines available on tap from the bar, as well as Arabica’s Middle-Eastern inspired cocktails.

It keeps on getting better – the menu caters to meat-eaters, pescatarians, vegetarians and vegans, meaning it’s easy to cater for everyone in your group of chums.

The new restaurant is housed within a ground floor corner of the recently opened Aga Khan Centre building, designed by world renowned pritzker prize winning architect. Basically, it’s fancy.

The 66 cover interior will feature an open plan kitchen and bar with counter dining seats, a large communal table, cosy leather banquettes and a terrace with room for a further 40 guests.

Summer may be coming to an end but this Middle-Eastern restaurant is bringing a bit of sunshine to London’s foodie scene.

Get booking: https://www.arabicalondon.com/kings-cross/

Opening hours: Monday to Thursday 9am- 11pm, Friday 9am – 12am, Saturdays 9am – 12am, Sunday 10am – 10pm

No.3 Gin Crowns The Winner of the Unlock Taste Cocktail Tournament 2019

London isn’t exactly short of world-class bartenders. But who’s the best?

Setting out to answer that very question, award-winning gin distillers, No.3 Gin, invited expert bartenders up and down the country to compete in the Unlock Taste Cocktail Tournament for the right to be crowned the best of the best.

I’d be lying if I said I was familiar with the event. But after discovering that the final include bartenders from some of the best bars such as the Artesian from the Langham Hotel, it was pretty obvious that this was a pretty big deal.

After qualifying rounds and regional finals, 60 hopefuls were whittled down to just 6 who headed to renowned wine merchants Berry Bros. & Rudd in fancy Piccadilly to compete in a series of challenges that would put their knowledge, flair and creativity to the test in front of a panel of some big-name industry judges.

Among the challenges, the finalists were tasked with re-creating, re-imagining and re-inventing two of the most iconic gin cocktails – the Martini and the Gin & Tonic – using No.3 Gin. Each challenger was fully miked up and recreated their cocktails while explaining the inspiration behind their creative concoctions to those present.

To my eyes, every bartender were as brilliant as each other so I was glad I wasn’t the one responsible picking out the winner from this incredible bunch of bartenders. But a decision was made and Will Campbell-Rowntree of Artesian became the winner of the third Unlock Taste Cocktail Tournament after impressing the judges with his twist on the G&T ‘Layer’s Mill’ and Martini ‘King’s Arrival’.

Your winner: Will with Layer’s Mill and King’s Arrival

Will impressed us with his technique, knowledge, professionalism, personable delivery and tasty drinks, and so it gives me great pleasure to see him crowned this year’s winner.”

Richard Gillam, No.3 Gin UK Brand Ambassador,

Massive congrats to Will. He’ll be jetting off to Hong Kong for well-deserved five-day experience with dosh to spend and lead a much sought-after guest shift at one of the world’s top 50 bars.

As an event, it was a reminder of how lucky we are to have some the world’s best mixologists serving the most innovative cocktails in such a diverse bar scene. Fair to say, I think we can count ourselves lucky to have them.

22 May 2019

Aperitivo Time at Xenia Hotel: Happy Hour the Italian Way

It’s not easy to find an authentic aperitivo hour (that’s Italian happy hour for you and me) experience in London. So when I got the chance to experience one of Italy’s most popular exports the traditional Italian way at Hotel Xenia, I wasn’t going to pass on the chance.

It got better as I walked into the hotel lobby and I immediately noticed the contemporary Italian-inspired interiors.

I was already impressed by the handsome Georgian townhouse exterior when I arrived on my Monday evening visit. It got better as I walked into the hotel lobby and I immediately noticed the contemporary Italian-inspired interiors. I’m talking gleaming marble floors, comfy-looking leather armchairs, large gallery windows and contemporary interior furnishings such as artsy ornaments and plants. The stylish interiors are what I would expect in the well-heeled neighbourhood of Kensington and I still got that sense of excitement of being in somewhere fancy.

I was greeted by a friendly receptionist and who led to the equally stylish Evoluzione – the hotel’s onsite Italian restaurant. I always thought that happy hours are best al fresco so I was glad to see that the dining area included an open-air terrace large enough to hold an intimate group. I only wish that the terrace was in a more secluded area of the hotel away from the sound of whizzing cars of Brompton Road.

While Aperol Spritz may hog the limelight, it’s not the only libation on offer.

I’m sure an Aperol Spritz needs no introduction, and I couldn’t fault it here: refreshingly sweet and crisp as it should be. While Aperol Spritz may hog the limelight, it’s not the only libation on offer. If the bittersweet orange flavours of Aperol isn’t your thing, a Negroni or perhaps a Campari G&T is also available.

Nibbles and food is provided for free when you’re drinking in Italy

Unbeknown to me, I wondered how the Italians do Happy Hour. As I would soon learn, nibbles and food is provided for free when you’re drinking in Italy, and staying true to Italian traditions, Hotel Xenia offers a buffet style assortment of Italian appetising favourites with your drinks. We’re not talking about a full-blown buffet with an array of hot- food, but rather, all the parmesan cheese you could want and as much bread, pickles and olives as you want. I wondered why this isn’t common in the UK.

For a bit more, there is the option of ordering something a little more substantial from the Xenia kitchen. An assortment of bite-sized portions of sustenance such as pillowy soft gnocchi smothered in pesto and tomato salsa on a bed of crunchy bruschetta, beautifully presented on a narrow wooden board. But I’d advise you, while it perfectly complements your Aperol concoction. It won’t satiate any appetites as big as mine. Nevertheless, I do appreciate the extra choices here.

As I took a moment to soak up the relaxed ambience of the hotel terrace, ably helped by the sound of jazz gently playing in the background, it was plain to me how ideal Hotel Xenia aperitivo time would be for business meetings, as it is suitable for a casual catch-up with a friend. And it can only get better when the sun’s out on a warm summer’s day and the terrace is open. Mondays is very quiet so avoid visiting then if you want a bit more buzz around you. I’d expect it to be busier on weekends.

True to the hotel name, (Xenia means hospitality in ancient Greek btw), the service was excellent. I felt well-looked after and the level of service was impeccable, befitting the hotel’s name.

It’s true, no-one does happy hour quite like the Italians, and thanks to Hotel Xenia, us lucky Londoner’s don’t have to fly all the way to Italy to experience the real deal.

DECOR & AMBIENCE: 4.0/5
🤵🏻 SERVICE: 4.0/5
🌟 OVERALL: 4.0/5

🍴 Type/Cuisine: Italian
📍 Location: 160 Cromwell Road, SW5 0TL
🗣 Social: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
🌏 Website: http://www.hotelxenia.co.uk/dining/aperitivo-terrace