Perfect Storm

  1. Leaky ice maker
  2. Freezer converted into giant block of ice
  3. Repairmen break a wall while “repairing” freezer
  4. Extensive leaks after repair
  5. Pay $250 and go back to step 2
  6. Spend 1 hour chiseling out ice to extract ingredients for dinner
  7. Kitchen transformed into a giant swimming pool
  8. Need a drink
  9. Abundant ice available, none suitable for cocktails
  10. Secret stash of Tovolo ice cubes located
  11. Cocktail achieved

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The American Bar at the Savoy Hotel

About a year ago, after a long flight from San Diego to London, I dropped off my things at the Zetter Hotel and had just enough time to enjoy a restorative meal at neighboring restaurant St. John before meeting a couple of cocktailians friends. I suggested starting our cocktail adventures at the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel. Going to the Savoy felt surreal in many ways. I had read so much about it, and of course when you are there you cannot help but think about all of the history. I had followed with great interest the events around the 50th anniversary of Harry Craddock‘s death that had been chronicled by Erik Ellestad on his blog. Being able to finally go there was a little overwhelming.

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The Clove Club

The Clove Club started as a pop-up restaurant a few years ago in London. It soon gathered a following, which allowed it to use crowdfunding to open as a regular restaurant in 2013. It was awarded one Michelin star since my visit in August.

The restaurant is located inside the former town hall building in Shoreditch. Immediately after the entrance, a converted closet full of charcuterie made on the premises is an auspicious sign.

You go through a first room where a central bar area is located, and make your way to the slightly more formal dining area which has a completely open kitchen. Unlike the opulent building, the decor is simple and, should we say, a little sparse – white walls, wooden tables and floors, no tablecloths.

The Clove Club

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White Lyan

White Lyan is a bar that Ryan Chetiyawardana (formerly of Worship Street Whistling Shop, Purl, 69 Colebrook Row, Bramble) and Iain Griffiths (Bramble, Eau de Vie) opened in September 2013 in Hoxton (East London), in a space that used to house the White Horse pub. It received a lot of buzz because of its general concept, which is always described by what it does not have – ice, perishables, shakers, brands, off-menu cocktails, etc.

That sounded forced and a bit gimmicky, pretentious even; a bar that was essentially putting into question the principles that we have seen used successfully time after time: ice programs, fresh citrus, shaking techniques, impressive back bars, bartender’s choice, etc. But after seeing the bar pick up the top award for Best New International Bar at Tales of the Cocktail this year, I knew I wanted to check it out.

White Lyan

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St. John

Last year when I got a chance to spend time in London, I immediately knew that I wanted to eat at St. John, Fergus Henderson‘s restaurant in Smithfield. It was not because of the huge hype generated by Anthony Bourdain who visited the restaurant in 2001 for his show A Cook’s Tour (this actually was a bit of a concern), it was about the Nose to Tail concept, which is so engrained in my own French culture. There is truly an art in using all the parts of the animal, and making remarkable things out of them. In the US, Chris Consentino did something similar at Incanto (now Porcellino). For me, this is the ultimate type of comfort food, prepared with an expert hand and a lot of attention to detail but done in a rustic, earthy way.

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All fired up

Chiltern Firehouse might be one of the most sought-after reservations in London these days. Since it opened a few months ago, it’s been impossible to get in unless you are rich or famous. Try googling the restaurant and you will see the daily log of celebrity visitors (from the past few days: “Rita Ora almost suffers wardrobe malfunction at Chiltern Firehouse” and the very intriguing “Clive Owen is seen arriving at Chiltern Firehouse with two mystery ladies”).

I was interested in trying the restaurant, not for his celebrity clientele but because, believe or not, I really like the food of chef Nuno Mendes, who used to helm the kitchen at Viajante and the Corner Room in Bethnal Green. After corresponding with the restaurant for a few weeks, I finally manage to score a reservation for a week lunch in early August.

Finding the restaurant is not difficult, however its entrance behind a large wooden gate is not so obvious (the security guards in black suits in front of the gates should have been a clue). Past the gate is a very nice outdoor patio. The vibe is very much like celebrity hot spot the Ivy in LA. A little bit of LA in London – not surprising, considering that the owner of Chiltern Firehouse is no other than André Balazs of Chateau Marmont in Hollywood.  

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Peg + Patriot: You had me at savory Sazerac

Peg + Patriot

Tucked within the beautiful Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green, Peg + Patriot is a cosy bar that was opened just a few months ago by Matt Whiley of the Talented Mr Fox and his team, Ally Martin and James Stevenson. It was pretty quiet on a Sunday night, with just a few barstools occupied. I took a spot at the bar and studied the clipboard-bound menu. Is it me, or are a lot of London bars hopelessly obsessed with clever puns? Continue reading

A study in demonology – back at Satan’s Whiskers

London August 2014

Cocktails with orange juice are evil, I’ve always been convinced. No matter how hard I try, I cannot find too many good things to say about The Bronx or the Blood and Sand. Even PDT could not get the Monkey Gland right. All these cocktails seem to compensate for their inadequacy with catchy names. Continue reading

London adventures: from Satan’s Whiskers to the Nightjar

After a great dinner at the Corner Room in Bethnal Green, I decided to check out nearby bar Satan’s Whiskers which had just opened a few months back. The bar, indicated by a red neon sign, had the expected decor of hipster cocktail lounges with a tasteful mix of brick, reclaimed items, light bulbs with visible filaments, a selection of taxidermied and accessorized animals, a unicorn skeleton, and an ironic old school hip hop soundtrack.

Satan's Whiskers

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