A Guide To: The Best London Bars with a View

If there’s one thing that everyone on this planet can agree on, it’s that a good view can take anyone’s breath away. It’s even better with a tasty tipple in hand, am I right?

Luckily, London’s skyline is one of the most iconic in the world so it’s no wonder that some of London’s bars are head and shoulders above the rest.

Whether you’re celebrating an anniversary, hosting a work do, or on a hot date, let those sweeping views be your wingman.

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A Guide To: The Best Quirky Bars in London

Quirky bars: don’t you just love them? If you love your cocktails with a rather large dollop of theatrics and immersion as much as I do, then you’ve come to the right place. From subterranean bars secreted behind a fridge, and a drinking den that takes you back in time, there’s a peculiar bar for every intrepid scoundrel. Welcome to my guide to the quirkiest bars in a London.

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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.

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

Ballroom Review: Could Meatballs Be The Next Big Thing?

How many venues can you think of that specialises in meatballs? Not many I assume. This is where Ballroom comes in. But in a city where burgers and pizzas rules, will it make Londoners sit up and take notice?

Ballroom transforms into a basement speakeasy cocktail bar apparently bringing the vibe of New York’s drinking den to Londoners.

Firstly, it’s a unique place just around the corner from the looming Walkie-Talkie. By day it’s a cafe serving the “I am important’ suits of the city. By night, Ballroom transforms into a basement speakeasy cocktail bar apparently bringing the vibe of New York’s drinking den to Londoners. I dig the torn walls that revealed the brick-and-mortar underneath, the on-trend neon signs as well as the low-lit setting created by the little tea lights from the tables. It’s casual with talkative tables but it’s also quite small – just big enough to host around 60 thirsty diners.

Speakeasy vibes at Ballroom

I personally don’t mind, but others might find it a bit too overpowering.

The star of the show is, of course, the meatballs. Whilst delicious, I can’t say it blew my mind. The beef meatballs worked well with the rich and tangy tomato sauce and had a chunky texture, generously seasoned with some sort of herb (oregano?). I personally don’t mind, but others might find it a bit too overpowering. Other options are also available such as Thai chicken and lamb meatballs, although I leave judgement to those who’ve tried it.

Beef meatballs

The cocktail menu is a little surprisingly short – 4-5 cocktails featuring classics like the Negroni and Old Fashioned. It’s done very well, but with such a cool speakeasy vibe, I expected a slightly more extensive cocktail list. The usual red, white, and beer is available as is customary.

So, will it make Londoner’s sit up and take notice? Probably not, but it is uniquely different. Ballroom is worth considering if you’re after a good drink in a speakeasy atmosphere in the corporate surroundings of the City.

🍴 Type/Cuisine: Cafe/Speakeasy Bar/Meatballs
📍 Location: 37-39 Eastcheap, London EC3M 1DT
🗣 Social: Instagram; Facebook
🌏 Website: https://www.theballroomlondon.com/

DECOR AMBIENCE: 3.75 / 5.
🤵🏻 SERVICE: 4.0 / 5
🍸 FOOD: 3.5 / 5
🌟 OVERALL: 3.75 / 5

In The Spotlight: The ultimate rooftop playground is back at Roof East this summer!

Now I don’t know about you, but my enduring love for rooftop vibes knows no bounds. I was one of the lucky sods to get a look at this lofty multi-story car park -turn-event space early and I can say, it’s bigger and better this year. Just take a look…

Come walk with me around Roof East 2019

Let’s start with the actual playground. This year, the fun-loving folks at Roof East have hooked up with The Social Fun and Games Club (SFG) and they’re bringing a whole host of fun adult-only activities into the mix. Expect a competitive game of 9-hole crazy golf course from Birdies. Also making up the ultimate adult playground are Sluggers, London’s only rooftop batting cage along with curling, shuffleboard and bowling lanes. New to this year, SFG Club is introducing ‘House of Foos’ to its gaming portfolio – a VR mix of traditional football and table foosball (on steroids). I look forward to coming back and channelling my inner Messi.

You’ll want to fuel up properly to keep you going and Roof East won’t let you or me go hungry with its plethora of bars and street food offings. Eat Chay is there serving up pillowy-soft vegan bao buns and The Burger Project will be serving, yep you guessed it, burgers. Good luck trying to resist ordering all the tasty sounding cocktails from the bar. Drinks like the Electric Boogaloo is top notch. Go easy, otherwise, the dizzying heights of Roof East won’t be the only thing making you dizzy. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Roof East – vegan bao buns courtesy of Eat Chay

All this and I’ve not even started on the return of the ever-popular Rooftop Film Club. These guys will be back in residence with a whole roster of movies to watch under the stars. Flow East Yoga will be there too, offering a more zen experience. I’m a little wild so you won’t find me joining in but for those with a chilled disposition, this one’s for you.

All this and it’s totally FREE to enter. It’s a hard life in East London. The imminent London summer is just around the corner and I reckon London is heading for another good one. You’ll know where to find me…

Location: Level 8, Stratford Multi-Storey Car Park, Great Eastern Rd, London, E15 1BB
Social: FB @roofeast, TW – @roofeast, IG – @roofeast
Cost: Free to enter. Games and activities priced separately. Buy here.
Opening Times: Mon: Closed (Except Bank Holidays: 12pm-11pm, Tues- Fri: 5pm – 11pm; Sats-Sun: 12pm – 11pm
More info: http://www.roofeast.com/